Ask Deemable Tech: Dealing With Adware
Sandra writes, "Help! I keep getting pop -up ads on my computer even when I go to websites I know don’t have ads. Does my computer have an infection? How do I get rid of it?"
Unfortunately, Sandra, seeing unusual pop-ups like this is a sure-fire sign that you’ve got uninvited guests on your hard drive.
These types of infections are what we call malware, and there are several different types. The really bad ones are called viruses (with any luck that’s not what you have). There is also a more benign type of infection that exists mostly to put annoying pop-up ads on your screen and make money for whoever created it. We call this adware.
Adware often takes the form of “helpful” toolbars installed on your Internet browser. Another sign that you have been infected is that when you search for things on the Internet you're constantly redirected to websites you didn’t mean to go to, usually sites that are full of ads.
What you need, Sandra, is a good anti-malware program. We would start by downloading avast! Antivirus, a free antivirus program that has a great reputation. Once you have it downloaded and installed it, set it to run a “boot-time scan.” This will reboot your computer into a special operating system that just runs the antivirus software, which will scan your computer and then automatically start Windows. This is great because a lot of malware hides itself inside Windows so that it can avoid being detected by the antivirus software.
One thing we should mention about avast! is that, while it is free, you’ll need to register the program when you install it. It will prompt you to provide an email address the first time you run it, and ask you to confirm your license every year. The program will not protect your computer if you don’t do this, so make sure you take the time to register.
Now, antivirus software like avast! mainly focus on traditional viruses like Trojan horses, worms and similar infections, so it may not catch that pesky adware. For that, we recommend installing a second program called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. This free program is exceptionally good at getting rid of malware that is so new traditional antivirus software won't even detect it.
Both of these programs should help you out, but ideally we should all try to avoid the risk of being infected in the first place. One thing that you can do to stave off adware is to pay attention when you’re installing programs, because it will often piggyback on other software. If a program asks you if you’d like to install a toolbar, say no!
Another good way to protect yourself is to stay off of sketchy websites. If you are using the Google Chrome browser, it will alert you with a red warning screen if you click on a website that is known to host infections. You can check out some of our other tips for avoiding malicious websites in this article.
So, to sum up: pay attention when you are installing software, stay off of dangerous websites, and try out Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and avast! Antivirus.