Getting Rid of Malicious Adware

Cisco estimates that nearly 75% of organizations have suffered an adware infection. Adware, or advertising supported programs, are software with embedded advertising that automatically displays or downloads advertising material when a user is online. Have you ever tried to install Adobe Reader and found it offering to install an “optional” extra program, such as Google Chrome or a McAfee security solution? This is an example of adware from legitimate and respectable companies that can easily fool your security program because they appear as advertisers and not criminals. Then there are thousands of shady advertisers with junk programs that try every trick in the book to install something without your consent. For instance, a web page with a phony message warning you that your Adobe Flash needs to be updated comes up and you click OK without reading it too closely and you immediately get a host of new useless programs on your computer, eating up your resources or even spying on your browsing activities.

You can be one errant click away from your screen being inundated with web page pop-ups, links to ads, or your system being injected with malicious programs, browser extensions and add-ins. And that is just the beginning. When adwares are part of a malware cocktail comprising of rootkitsTrojans and more, then it can be an even more serious problem. Since malicious adware is designed to make its way onto your computer and stay there, slowly driving you insane, you are probably interested in learning the steps can you take to get rid of unwanted adware.

What to Do After the Infiltration of Adware 

Adware from malicious hackers that use unethical business practices are harder to remove by design and generally require the use of an adware cleaner or removal tool.

  1. Disconnect: To prevent the adware programs from sending out sensitive information or from opening more backdoors to your computer, you can disable your network connection or simply unplug the Internet cable from your computer.
  2. Remove Malicious Programs from Your System: There are two distinct methods that can be used to remove adware from the system, either through manual removal or automatic adware removal. After disconnecting from the Internet, you can quite simply remove any adware or spyware listed in Add/Remove Programs from Control Panel, and reboot the computer. Then run a full system scan using any up-to-date antivirus scanners, preferably in Safe Mode (to limit the adware’s access to your system components). If prompted, allow the scanner to clean, quarantine, or delete as necessary.  You won’t find adwares that install themselves within your browser as plugins or extensions, in the Control Panel. Therefore, take the following steps-
  • To remove adware in Chrome browsers, navigate to ‘Extensions’ under ‘Settings’.
  • For Firefox, open menu in the top right corner, and check ‘Extensions’ under ‘Add-ons’ to remove any suspicious extensions installed.
  • In Internet Explorer, access and uninstall adware serving extensions through ‘Add-ons’ under ‘Tools Manage.’
  1. Reset Your Setting: Adware can often modify your browser settings in order to change your homepage or redirect you to malicious websites. You will need to reset any such settings.
  • For Google Chrome, go to ‘Settings’ and check the pages present in the “On startup” section.  To remove any of them, click the “X” button next to a page. To change your search settings, go to ‘Manage Search Engines’ under ‘Settings’ and set up your default search engine.
  • For Firefox, press ‘Open Menu’ and go to the ‘General’ section and modify your homepage in the startup section. Then go to the ‘Search tab’ on the left side of the menu to set up your default search engine and add or remove search engines, according to your need.
  • In Internet Explorer, go to ‘Internet Options’ under the ‘Tools’ section and modify the URL you want in the homepage section.

You also need to ensure that your HOSTS file hasn’t been hijacked and any undesirable websites haven’t been added to your Trusted Sites Zone. Sometimes, manual adware removal may not do the trick because these programs contain various components that come in a pack and you can often unintentionally leave unwanted files and similar components on your computer.

Automatic Adware Removal

Thankfully there are other ways to remove and defend against malware-related adware too. Automatic adware removal is the most reliable way to eradicate adware and its components using legitimate anti spyware programs that have extensive parasite signature databases for easy detection and elimination.

Major operating systems have their own built-in removal tools, such as the “Malicious Software Removal Tool” from Windows, which scans and removes adware. Even Mac OS X can automatically scan and quarantine known threats. But your system has to be up-to-date, or these OS tools won’t work properly.

There are popular third-party security and anti-virus software, such as Norton, Kaspersky, Avast and McAfee that include adware detection and removal tools. Keep them updated with the latest patches and definitions. Run a scan if you think your computer is infected.

The Final Word on Adware

While adware may be a more manageable threat than rootkits or Trojans, they can still wreak havoc on your system and act as a gateway for other, more serious types of infection later. All you have to do is be more careful about the sites you visit, and watch what software you install.