Here is how it all happens. You open the website with your convenient and well-tuned browser, but in just a few minutes the browser seems to be going crazy. You are faced with the invasion of ads and pop-up windows. Banners appear on the right and on the left. Other intrusive content starts to interfere with your activities like obsessive redirects to unnecessary websites. No matter how much you try to close those pop-up windows, they continue to annoy you, like flies at a picnic.
The cause of these annoying pop-up windows and banners is actually the adware attack. Just as food brought to a picnic attracts flies and ants, the income from unsolicited advertising attracts adware to your computer or mobile device.
Adware is an unwanted program created to show advertisements on a computer screen, most often while using a browser. Some cybersecurity experts consider adware as the forerunner of potentially unwanted programs - PUPs. As a rule, such objects use fraudulent methods to force the user to install them on their PC, tablet or mobile device. They impersonate legitimate software or enter the system as an “extra gift” during bundled installation when you install other (mostly free) applications.
Adware for Mac
There was a time when Mac users could not worry about adware. Mac computers are equipped with XProtect built-in protection system, which effectively neutralizes known malicious objects.
In many ways, this is precisely why cybercriminals are concentrating their efforts mainly on computers running the Windows platform, as here, unlike the Mac platform, they can successfully achieve many of their goals.
However, everything began to change rapidly recently. Statistics show that in 2017, the number of new malware families aimed at Mac machines increased by more than 270 percent compared to 2016.
The first mention of adware specifically designed for Mac computers dates back to 2012. Since then, many adware types designed to attack Mac computers have become popular.
They are developed both secretly and quite openly. In the first case, we are talking about hackers and organized criminal groups. In the second - about formally legitimate companies that claim to sell full-fledged programs with supposedly useful functions. Such programs may contain adware, which, of course, is mentioned in the long user agreement created with tine font. Do you know people who actually read such texts? By clicking the “Install” button, you accept the terms of this agreement. And voila - spam is now guaranteed. People who develop such programs do not do anything illegal. At least technically.
In most cases, adware applications for Mac are hidden inside Trojans - malware that owes its name to the Trojan horse from an ancient Greek myth. The Trojan program impersonates the object you need. This can be a media player or a plug-in. The malicious payload can even be hidden within the most popular program, which you, however, download from a dubious website. Anyway, such objects promise you something cool, but at the same time fraudulently deliver adware to your system.
In general, signs of infecting a Mac with adware are similar to those observed in Windows systems:
- Pop-up advertising windows appear where they should not be, that is, virtually everywhere.
- The settings of the browser homepage get changed without your participation.
- Familiar web pages no longer look the same as before, and once you click a link, it redirects to a completely different website.
- An unwanted program can even replace the default search engine.
Thus, while Macs are less vulnerable than Windows computers, they can still bring security problems caused by the adware program.
How to protect yourself from adware?
It is advised to observe basic safety precautions when working with a computer. This means that it is better to think twice before downloading and installing a new program, especially if it is free.
Before accepting the terms and conditions, read it as a lawyer would have done, and immediately interrupt the download process if anything suspicious, like permission to download adware, arises.
Avoid illegal downloads, torrent sites, and never open an application received from an unknown source - even if this link came from an email address you trust.
About the Author: John Dee is a Mac addict with a strong background in analyzing and combating security threats to the Macintosh ecosystem. John runs MacSecurity.net website specializing in malware research, software reviews, and groundbreaking industry news. It is his firm belief that underestimating Mac malware is like ignoring the elephant in the room. In his day-to-day work, John focuses on identifying new electronic perils potent enough to create ripples on the Mac security arena. On top of that, he is particularly enthusiastic about implementing effective countermeasures to fend off these menaces.