It’s Black Friday, and you’ve waited all year for that online sale to snag that new laptop or gaming system you’ve been dying to buy. Promptly at 12:01 AM, you log on to the retailer’s website to grab the sale … and your screen fills with pop-up ads that refuse to go away. After wrestling with your computer for an hour, you go to bed, frustrated and resolving to take your computer in for service. The next morning, your credit card company’s fraud detection department calls. They want to know if you spent $2,000 at an electronics store that morning … a full 3,000 miles away from your current location! Before you know it, your card is frozen and you’re left wondering what happened.
What happened is you’ve been attacked by malicious adware and spyware that has stolen your credit card information and sold it to the highest bidder.
What Is Spyware?
Spyware is software that allows another user to obtain your personal information without your consent. Spyware is classified as a type of malware, alongside computer viruses, Trojan horses, adware, and ransomware. All of these programs have one goal: to infiltrate your system and exploit your information and resources for financial gain.
Spyware infiltration on your devices can lead to slower systems, a key indicator that something isn’t right with your computer or device. Spyware uses your RAM processor and system resources to run its programs and track your every digital move.
The dangers of spyware can be greater than merely slowing down your computer or mobile device. Spyware is also used in conjunction with adware to target specific ads based on your browsing and purchase habits, to install even more malware on your devices. This information about you is precious to third parties, who purchase billions of dollars’ worth of personal information wholesale to commit identity theft and fraud the world over.
Adware Is Another Reason to Block Pop-Up Ads
Adware is malware that infiltrates devices through advertising banners while your programs are running. The ads are usually delivered through pop-up windows or bars on the top or bottom of pages. If you’ve ever been bombarded with ads that pop up when you’re trying to navigate a page, like those in our Black Friday example, refusing to stay closed after multiple clicks, then you’ve encountered adware.
Every moment those ads are on your device, they are collecting data about you: where you click, how long you stay on a website, and what purchases you make. Most people know not to click on ads, but some adware doesn’t even need your click to infiltrate your computer or phone.
The specific risks from adware are increasing every year as adware software design grows in its complexity and functionality. A growing problem in adware schemes is the infiltration of computers through legitimate websites and ad server systems. Unfortunately, although not every ad is malware, any ad can be malware!
Legitimate Company’s Ads May Contain Malware
Many corporations rely on advertising on their websites to pay for the services they offer customers. YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and Google all rely on a certain amount of ad revenue to offset the cost of running their businesses. Unfortunately, the hackers have learned to piggyback on these legitimate ads and websites. If you think you can avoid adware by avoiding questionable sites, that time has gone. Now, even your favorite websites may place your system and personal data at risk due to how online ad space is bought and sold.
Remember that great online Black Friday sale? When you go to your favorite website, a very quick negotiation between the site and advertisers happens in milliseconds. The highest bidder for the ad space that matches your preferences wins. The first set of data sent may be adware free, but a single ad can end up going through as many as six intermediaries before reaching you at your favorite website.
Unfortunately, the ad system was set up for profitability, not to detect malware and fraud. This hole in the system means it’s up to the user to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their valuable personal information from being exposed. However, how does malware work? How does it infect and take over your computer and mobile devices?
Malware Infiltrates Your System in Stages
- Infection: The installation of the malware into your device, and its ability to remain installed, even with multiple attempts to remove it.
- Propagation: The mechanism by which the malware is distributed to numerous systems, devices, and networks.
- Self-Defense: The methods the software utilizes to avoid detection and resist identification.
- Capabilities: The functionality of the software and what it is built to do. This functionality could be harvesting keystrokes, banking information, or identity markers like SSN’s and passwords. Consider online banking. There are billions of dollars moved electronically in the United States every day through various means. Credit cards, according to Market Watch in 2017, can settle 5,000 transactions per second, and every day, opportunistic criminal elements are seeking to get a piece of the data making those transactions possible. The amount of data they receive about one person increases the worth of that information exponentially. Check out these black-market stats published by Secureworks.
● A stolen Visa or Mastercard number is worth $7.
● A stolen credit card number with magnetic stripe or chip data is worth $15.
● Bank account credentials with a balance of $15,000 are worth $500.
● Bank account credentials with a balance of at least $70,000 to $150,000 are worth 6% of the account balance.
● Thieves will even steal your hard-won airline and hotel points. Large U.S airline accounts can be worth $450 for 1.5 million points, and international hotel chain points can cost $200. Hotel points can be used to trade those airline points in for gift cards on legitimate sites, in effect “laundering” them, or cashing them in using identity markers via mileage brokers.
The more information a cyber-criminal gets from your devices, the more money they make. Compounding profits are ample motivation for cybercriminals to continue to develop software and methods designed to get around as many preventative measures as they can.
Malware Is a High-Tech Industry
Studies have shown that malware development has kept pace with and been aided by advances in legal software development. Far from being a fly-by-night enterprise, run in basements and dark back rooms, malware technology follows the same testing, development and release cycles as legitimate software companies do to continue to be digitally innovative.
The development and distribution of malware software are highly organized ventures, and stakeholders implement business plans for execution of profitability goals, just like any Fortune 500 company. Just as legitimate software companies have created release testing plans and a network of engineers and customers, so too have the masterminds of criminal enterprises that control the malware industry.
Software development is only the beginning of the supply chain of the malware industry. Those who develop the malware profit from the distribution of that malware by sale or lease to third parties, maintaining an update network and release cycle to which their customers subscribe. This supply chain is referred to as “Crimeware as a Service,” or “CAAS.” Data theft is big business, with many potential layers of profit that go beyond your CVV code and credit card number. It’s a complex web of organizations, services, partners, and products.
With so much money on the table up for grabs, it’s clear the use of malware isn’t going away, and it’s escalating at an alarming rate. How does the average consumer respond?
Keeping your virus protection and operating system up to date is a good step, but they won’t catch all of the malicious adware and remove all spyware currently in development. Consumers need to go a step further and block ads before they pop up, and ensure their devices are regularly swept clean of spyware.
Blocking Ads and Spyware Removal
The first step in blocking ads and removing spyware is ensuring your anti-virus software is up to date and doesn’t have any unresolved issues in the queue. The second step is to ensure all your devices are operating with the latest software updates and driver updates available.
Third, make sure your cookie permissions are set low, ensuring that every website you visit, you have to take the time to review the terms of the cookies they wish to send to “maximize your browsing experience.” Many consumers click automatically on “accept,” not realizing they have accepted malware at the same time.
Finally, the most crucial step of all: Find an adware and spyware removal and blocker tool you can trust to ensure your data and personal information stays safe and secure.
What’s the Best Spyware Tool to Keep My Browser Fast and Safe?
The best spyware and ad blocker tools work quietly in the background of your browser, providing protection from having your online movements tracked—no fuss, no muss, just faster speeds, secure browsing, and data protection.
The Good News: Ad Remover Blocks Dangerous Malware
You’ll never miss a Black Friday sale again due to malware, though setting your alarm clock for 12:01 AM is up to you! Ad Remover can cover all the malware bases and remove spyware from your computer and mobile devices. All it takes is two clicks to set up, and you’re on your way to ad-free browsing without the threat of malware infiltration. As a bonus, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing Ad Remover working every day, since its easy to use interface shows you the results of ad blocking in real-time. Ad Remover even shows you how much time and data you’ve saved yourself by using one of the best ad blockers on the market. On average, pages load 44% faster with Ad Remover installed, and use 19% less data. Check out our test results!
Q. Are software updates important for spyware removal? A. Yes! Software updates are a crucial part of your protection plan. Don’t put off your computer or mobile device updates.
Q. Doesn’t anti-virus protection take care of malware and spyware? A. No! Anti-virus software should only be considered one part of your protection plan—not your whole plan! Get an Ad Remover and spyware remover you can trust.
Q. Is it easy to know when your system is infected? A. No! You can be unaware your system is infected until it’s too late. Preventative, proactive steps are the key to staying malware free. Not even Macs or mobile devices are immune to compromise.
Q. I thought malware was only found on questionable websites, is that true? A. No! Some of your favorite websites can be a source of malware due to adware infiltration.
Don’t wait until your systems are compromised. Take action today to protect your household and your data from cyber-theft. As a bonus, we include a free 30-day subscription to LifeLock Identity Theft Protection.
Looking for more information on how Ad Remover can work for you? Check out our F.A.Q page!
If you’re ready to stop pop-up ads in their tracks and prevent your data from being compromised, sign up here.