Adware is essentially a piece of software that comes with adverts embedded in the application. Adware is not officially a worm, virus or piece of malware – in fact one company that makes adware is threatening to sue anyone who describes its products as malware – however, it is invasive. It may not be spying on you or stealing your identity but it does invade your bandwidth and can bombard you with irritating and unnecessary adverts when you just don’t want to see them. As a result, most types of adware will have a hard time getting into any official app stores.
However, reports last month found that 13 pieces of apps with adware had managed to make it through the security screening on the Google Play app store. Some of these were masquerading as Facebook and had certain malware-esque qualities that made them difficult to remove from a phone after they had been downloaded. When Google was alerted to the issue it quickly removed the apps in question but it’s not the first time this has happened and if you were unlucky enough to unwittingly download the app before Google took action then you would be stuck with the adware.
Other examples of what adware can do have, unfortunately, been coming thick and fast. We have seen clever adware that does nothing for 30 days and then suddenly starts aggressively bombarding a user with adverts and trying to bully them into opening unsafe web pages, for example. HideIcon is one of the adware families that was identified in the recent Google Play app store bust – as the name suggests it hides the icon, which makes it almost impossible to remove. At the same time it aggressively serves up ads to disrupt the user experience.
So how do you avoid ending up with adware? Well, firstly try reading the app reviews and if you see a lot of people complaining about ads appearing then avoid. Only download your apps from trusted developers and make sure you have a security app installed that can detect adware threats. Although you can’t avoid the threat completely, these steps will certainly help.