Adware: Evolved

By: Josh George

When adware was first developed, it had one simple intention: to deliver targeted advertising to its customers.?If you ever had adware on your system, you can understand that it is a great way to deliver advertisements.?Whether or not you enjoy it, adware has developed a shift in the paradigm of not only delivering advertisements, but how we see the Internet today.

Unfortunately, as time has progressed, adware has been changing for the worse.?Not only are more companies adding functionality to adware that can be categorized as unethical business practices, but hackers are also modifying them to compromise people's computer security and identities.?While this form of adware is usually categorized as spyware, it is in fact just maliciously modified adware (since it still delivers pop up advertisements).?Differentiating the two can be very difficult and many just consider them synonymous terms.

So where did it all go wrong??Well, when adware was first released into the Internet, advertisers were seeing huge response rates.?Competing advertising firms soon caught onto this new method of advertising and started creating adware of their own.?Through funding and supporting popular free software, it is no mystery that adware became an instant hit.?

As time progressed with advertisers reaping the benefits of this new advertising medium, hackers and malicious software developers voluntarily got involved.?Whether they always knew about it or if they just stumbled onto it by accident by downloading free software, adware became a hit in the underground communities.

The idea was genius.?By simply taking some popular software that is free and attaching malicious code to it, hackers could create system infections that spread like a virus with minimal effort.?At this point, adware has entered the underground and has evolved into a new being.

When it comes down to spreading the viral infection, only two things needed to be done: (1) create the maliciously modified adware and (2), hack into a website and replace the clean version of the free software with the new adware infection.?This idea spread like wildfire in the underground.?Whether you knew about it or not, web security was not really considered as it is today, so for many, hacking into a website was juvenile.

Bringing it back to the present, you now have the malicious counterparts of adware: spyware and malware.?At the same time though, there are brand new security solutions to protect innocent users from these dark brothers of adware.?Computer security bundles with advanced algorithm and heuristic capabilities; MD5 hashes; immunization solutions; all of these have stepped up to the front lines of internet security to prevent adware, spyware or malware from compromising systems.

When you think about it, adware has made a significant impact on the Internet.?From allowing popular software to be free, to being maliciously modified to benefit hackers, there is no ignoring the presence of adware.?But, even with all of that in mind, there are still those advertisers who simply use adware for its initial purpose: to bring targeted advertising to new customers.

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