Adware is the common name used to describe software that is given to users that has advertisements built into it or can display advertisements anywhere on the computer, redirect your search requests to advertising websites, and collect marketing-type data about you. Adware is an annoyance at best to most computer users. The name “adware” is a short form of advertising-supported software. Like commercials on regular media, adware is one way for software developers and distributors to offset the costs of software production by offering advertising to those that install it. It comes bundled right in with the software application package that a user either installs or accesses.

Other than displaying advertisements and collecting data, adware doesn’t generally make its presence known. Usually, there will be no signs of the program in your computer’s system tray – and no indication in your program menu that files have been installed on your machine. Adware can be included within some freeware or shareware programs as a legitimate way of generating advertising revenues that help to fund the development and distribution of the freeware or shareware program. A visit to an infected website can result in unauthorized installation of Adware on your computer as well. Also, adware modules such as browser search and home page hijacker and web browser toolbars that include ad-injectors are typical adware installations that come bundled with software downloaders that use opt-out mechanisms.

Adware has been criticized for occasionally including code that tracks a user’s personal information and passes it on to third parties, without the user’s authorization or knowledge. Though adware companies may have a Privacy Policy and EULA stating that no sensitive or identifying information will be collected, there is usually no way for the user to be completely sure that he or she remains anonymous. Therefore, because of privacy concerns and the prospect of malicious adware, antivirus software today detects and removes most adware.

Examples of Adware

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