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What is an Adware Detector?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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Adware, also known as advertising-supported software, is a class of computer programs that coordinate the delivery of web-based advertisements. Frequently bundled with downloads of free or inexpensive software programs, ringtones, or music, adware is often downloaded and installed without the user realizing it. It is generally very difficult to ascertain whether adware has been installed, and uninstalling it is usually even harder. An adware detector program can simplify the process. It is a software program designed to identify and eliminate adware programs that are surreptitiously hiding in computers.

The purpose of adware is to serve advertisements, either through pop-up ads or as sponsored web ads on sites the infected user visits. Usually, nothing about dware is itself particularly malicious, but it can raise privacy concerns. Some adware programs include potentially privacy-invasive software that records users’ movements online in order to serve advertisements related to sites commonly visited. An adware detector program will detect and stop this web tracking, and can put an end to pop-up ads that can disrupt a user’s website experience.

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The likelihood that adware can be a gateway to other more harmful content is also a major concern. Adware is usually covertly bundled as an automatic download within legitimate downloads. It follows, then, that spyware and viruses could be similarly bundled within the adware program. While the adware itself may not be harmful, it might have carried with it a whole host of damaging applications. The majority of adware detector programs are designed to identify every piece of the adware package that was downloaded: spyware, viruses, and all.

Spyware is a software program that on its face looks a lot like adware, but rather than tracking web use to serve ads, it tracks web use to glean personal information. Many spyware programs include keylogger applications that track and record every letter a computer user types. This can reveal website visit data, e-mail contents, and usually also passwords — often to sensitive sites like online banking accounts. Viruses have similar capabilities, and use a range of nefarious means to access sensitive content to proliferate out to other computers.

The primary goal of any adware detector program is to root out and eradicate malware. Spyware, adware, and viruses are often collectively referred to as malware. Once installed, the adware detector will detect adware by scanning the computer’s hard drive, scrutinizing the internet browser’s site log, and reviewing all recent downloads.

Adware detectors are available commercially from many antivirus vendors. Many standard antivirus programs actually come with adware detectors already installed. Adware detector software can also be downloaded from many websites, but downloads — particularly those that are free — should be approached with caution.

Before downloading an adware detector, users should be sure to research its source. It is important to look into the sponsoring site to be sure that it is legitimate. While many legitimate adware detectors can be downloaded online, not all detectors are the same. It is not uncommon for a rogue website to offer a free “adware detector” that in practice only serves to further infect the downloading computer. In the world of free downloads and sweeping promises of instant malware detection, if something is too good to be true, it just might be.

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