Adware – Definition

Cite this article as:"Adware – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated January 26, 2020, last accessed November 26, 2020,


Adware Definition

As a user of computer devices, when you stress on a web browser, you see advertisements pop up on your screen, this is the work of Adware. Adware is advertising software that displays advertisers to users when they are within an interface or web browser. Adwares are created by developers for the purpose of generating revenue by serving advertisements to computer users while surfing the internet or when installing a program.

Adware monitors users’ behaviors online in order to determine when to display ads and the type of advertisements that suit them most. Adware can display full-screen ads, videos, and other pop-ups to users.

A Little More on What is Adware

Adware means “advertising-supported software.” it is a software program used by developers to serve advertisements to internet users when browsing on their computers or installing a program.

Although many users see Adware as malicious and intrusive in nature, they are legitimately used by developers to redirect search results to advertising sites and to also connect users’ data for marketing purposes. The nature of data collected and the types of websites users visit to determine the customized adverts that will be served on their screen.

In many cases, when users receive unsolicited ads, they disable the adware and limit how ads pop up on their screen.

Adware: How Users Make Money

Generally, adware poses no threats to a computer system, it is simply used by developers to generate revenue. Developers also design adware in a way that they are not easily noticed by computer users, rather, they hide in computers and serve customized ads that generate revenue for the developer.

There are two ways software developers make money from adware, one through the display of ads on users’ computers and another is when users click on the pay-per-click ads.

Adware History

The use of adware was introduced in 1995, by software developers. They are advertising-supported software that hides in computer systems and monitor the internet activities of users for advertisement purpose. When it was first introduced, there were oppositions from industry experts who viewed adware as a Spyware.

Much later, adware was accepted to be largely legitimate and its use spread uncontrollably. Due to lack of regulation, some unethical activities thrived in adware which led to more stringent policies on adware.

Adware and Malicious Use

In many cases, adware is considered as malicious, given that it serves advertisements to users in a manner similar to malware, a malicious software. Also, Adware creeps into people’s computers when they engage in the unauthorized installation or visit fake websites.

Adware monitors the activities of computer users and collates data about their internet activities without their knowledge. This is why many industry experts consider adware to be spyware. Furthermore, adware carries out a lot of unwanted and unsolicited tasks that are annoying and intrusive to the user.

Users consciously install programs that help them remove adware, such programs include AVG AntiVirus Free, Spybot, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and others.

Reference for “Adware”

Academics research on “Adware”

[PDF] Techniques of adware and spyware, Chien, E. (2005, April). Techniques of adware and spyware. In the Proceedings of the Fifteenth Virus Bulletin Conference, Dublin Ireland (Vol. 47). A whole class of threats commonly known as adware and spyware has proliferated over the last few years with very few impediments. These programs are security risks that are typically used to gather marketing information or display advertisements in order to generate revenue. Not only are these threats far more widespread than traditional malware, but they also utilize techniques that are far more advanced than those used in traditional threats. No doubt this is because adware and spyware programs are being created by registered corporations with professional developers rather than by hobbyist virus writers. This paper will examine the techniques used by adware and spyware in their attempts to remain resident on the system and examine the types of data being extracted from the user’s system. These techniques will be compared to similar techniques being used by traditional malicious software and we will speculate at the point at which adware and spyware becomes more akin to a Trojan horse. Solutions will be discussed including exploring the necessity of full system repair including repairing the registry, process scanning, and address the removal of other advanced hooking concepts such as Winsock layered service providers.

A case study in open source software security and privacy: Android adware, Erturk, E. (2012, June). A case study in open source software security and privacy: Android adware. In World Congress on Internet Security (WorldCIS-2012) (pp. 189-191). IEEE. The goal of this paper is to analyze the behavior and intent of recent types of privacy-invasive Android adware. This paper starts with a review of Android mobile operating system security. This paper also addresses the broader issue as to the pros and cons of an open source operating system in terms of security and privacy. Static analysis of malware can provide higher quality results and lead to a better understanding. This approach is used in this paper. As Android’s market share is rapidly growing around the world, Android security will be a crucial area of research for IT security professionals and their academic counterparts. The upside of the current situation is that malware is being quickly exposed, thanks to open-source software development tools.

Fighting Spyware and Adware in the Enterprise., Gordon, S. (2005). Fighting Spyware and Adware in the Enterprise. Information systems security, 14(3), 14-17. While obvious security threats like fast-spreading worms have a tendency to garner news headlines, other stealthy security risks threaten businesses every day. Increasing amounts of spyware and adware programs have the ability to facilitate the disclosure of business information and risk privacy, confidentiality, integrity, and system availability. Corporations usually accumulate a vault of information that could cause serious problems if it were shared with the wrong contacts or, even worse, taken. Spyware’s evolution from simple cookies to a range of sophisticated usertracking systems has left many businesses without the control over their proprietary data and operations.

Spyware & Adware: the risks facing businesses, Shaw, G. (2003). Spyware & Adware: the risks facing businesses. Network security, 2003(9), 12-14. Spyware is the term for a category of malicious software that affects privacy and confidentiality a lot more than viruses and other types of malicious software. The risks to business from viruses, and associated countermeasures are relatively well understood and discussed. However, whilst there is an overlap between the issues presented by viruses and spyware, this article focuses specifically on the issues associated with spyware, and the related categories of malicious software known as adware. It defines the terms used and describes the nature of the problem, what the security risks and issues are and what actions need to be taken by corporate IT Security Management and individuals to combat them. Whilst primarily aimed at the corporate audience, this white paper will also be useful to individuals. Indeed the issues facing individuals will need to be appreciated by corporations delivering E-commerce services.

Accurate adware detection using opcode sequence extraction, Shahzad, R. K., Lavesson, N., & Johnson, H. (2011, August). Accurate adware detection using opcode sequence extraction. In 2011 Sixth International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security (pp. 189-195). IEEE. Adware represents a possible threat to the security and privacy of computer users. Traditional signature-based and heuristic-based methods have not been proven to be successful at detecting this type of software. This paper presents an adware detection approach based on the application of data mining on disassembled code. The main contributions of the paper is a large publicly available adware data set, an accurate adware detection algorithm, and an extensive empirical evaluation of several candidate machine learning techniques that can be used in conjunction with the algorithm. We have extracted sequences of opcodes from adware and benign software and we have then applied feature selection, using different configurations, to obtain 63 data sets. Six data mining algorithms have been evaluated on these data sets in order to find an efficient and accurate detector. Our experimental results show that the proposed approach can be used to accurately detect both novel and known adware instances even though the binary difference between adware and legitimate software is usually small.

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