Many people are looking for ways to combat the ever-increasing number of annoying pop-up ads that are invading their personal computer space. It may seem impossible at times to completely remove those pesky ads that disrupt your browsing experience and even cause your computer to slow down, but luckily, there are effective ways to avoid as many pop-ups, adware, and spyware programmes as possible.
But first, let’s define adware. Why are you inundated with pop-ups to the point where surfing the web is a chore? Pop-ups, as the name implies, are advertisements that appear in a separate window while you’re surfing the web, usually at specific sites that allow pop-up advertising. Pop-up ads can be caused by the website you’re visiting, but they can also be generated by other sources while you’re browsing the web. Adware, for example, can cause pop-up windows to appear in your browser. Any software programme that generates pop-up advertising directly from your computer is referred to as adware. When an adware programme running on your computer also has a secondary function – collecting personal information and passing it on to third parties without your knowledge or consent – it is referred to as “spyware.” This is where adware is most chastised, particularly by those who believe that privacy is a fundamental right, whether or not you are online. The worst-case scenario is when spyware is installed without the user’s knowledge, but most people unknowingly allow this code to be installed on their computers through other means. This usually happens when you download and install a “free” programme you want without realising you’ve also agreed to allow the company to install spyware on your computer. These programmes are known as Trojans in computer jargon. The shareware or freeware programme itself could be a Trojan disguised as a legitimate (or at least harmless) application you want to install on your computer, or it could be an add-on you’re not aware of.
Perhaps you’ve recently downloaded a useful browser toolbar to help you with online searches or to get quick and easy access to your local weather? Unfortunately, you may have also unintentionally downloaded (with your permission) an adware programme that will bombard you with pop-up ads and may even track your online activities. Peer-to-peer file-sharing programmes are also notorious for being infested with spyware. Although the majority of the data collected is used for advertising and target marketing, you can rest easier if you use certain strategies to avoid as much adware as possible. The most malicious spyware programmes can log your keystrokes and obtain personal information, such as passwords, that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands.
Another type of pop-up advertising that can be very annoying is task bar balloon pop-ups. This type of pop-up appears out of your task bar rather than in a separate window box to send an advertising message. Task bar balloon pop-ups are annoying because they appear to come directly from your computer desktop, giving the impression that someone is always watching you, even if it is just an adware programme. While task bar pop-ups may appear to be more dangerous than other pop-ups, they all come from the same place: adware code on your computer that was installed either through a recent software application download or by visiting a malicious website (any website that has spyware programmes just waiting to infect your computer when you visit).
The appearance of a Windows dialogue box is perhaps the most insidious way of tricking you into “willingly” downloading software onto your computer. This is a type of pop-up ad that appears when you visit certain websites, or it may be caused by adware on your computer. The alert appears legitimate to an inexperienced user, which is exactly what the creators of these pop-ups hope for. The advertisements are written in such a way that you believe your computer is sending you a message, urging you to download software that will remove the spyware from your system. Of course, instead of solving a non-existent problem, you’re downloading a Trojan that will infect your computer with adware and cause a slew of other issues. These applications will not remove adware or spyware from your computer if you already have it, and will almost certainly make things worse. These programmes are sometimes designed to trick you into purchasing a spyware removal programme. You are notified that you have adware/spyware on your computer after downloading the programme as instructed by the alert. The company that originally infected you with spyware now offers you the cure – for a fee. To make money, these companies rely on their targets’ ignorance and fears.
The most dangerous type of spyware is browser hijackers. A hijacker programme will be installed on your system without your knowledge after visiting a website or downloading malicious software by accident. It then modifies your browser settings so that your home page and favourites are all replaced with something else, usually a search engine or portal site; you are effectively imprisoned and unable to restore your browser to its original settings. Furthermore, any time you use this engine to conduct an online search, you will be redirected to affiliates and websites that are looking to make money. These “hijacked” visitors earn affiliate money for the people who used the hijacking programme to direct you to these sites.
How Do You Keep Your Computer Safe From These Dangers?
Knowing the various ways your computer can be infected with spyware and inundated with pop-up ads, you may be wondering how you can protect yourself from all of these dangers. Installing a reputable anti-spyware programme that will immunise your computer against common adware programmes and work to prevent new ones from being added is the best way. Running and updating a good anti-spyware programme will make your life a thousand times easier and allow you to protect your computer without exerting too much effort.
Using an alternative browser (rather than Internet Explorer) to avoid the annoying pop-up ads that bombard you on a regular basis from websites is a must. Many people are unaware that they are receiving so many pop-up ads simply because their browser is not equipped to block pop-ups from appearing in their view. The most simple and effective way to protect your computer from unwanted ads and adware installations is to install a browser such as Firefox or Opera. When you have the option to browse without pop-ups, the difference is noticeable. These browsers are also built with fewer security flaws than Internet Explorer. Their advanced security enhancements keep the browsing experience simple and user-friendly while blocking adware, spyware, and malicious websites. Malicious software isn’t even given a chance to install on your system, which means you’ll have fewer computer problems.
You don’t need to download additional pop-up blockers or worry about keeping them up to date if you use web browsers that automatically block them. Everything you need to avoid those dreaded pop-ups is already set up and working as an integral part of your browser with the right browser. This means more pop-up blocking efficiency, fewer adware programmes clogging up your computer, and more time to do what you came to do in the first place: surf the Internet.