Many pieces of software are available as freeware or shareware, meaning you don't need to pay for their use. You may, however, have to agree to install what's known as "adware" on your computer, which displays advertisements and collects data about which websites you visit. But deleting freeware — or paying the cost to register it — doesn't always remove these ads. In this case, they become a form of virus-like malware.
What's the Risk of Adware?
Adware is lightweight; in small amounts the code doesn't bog down your computer, and if you've consented to the installation, ads generated might even be for products you like. The flip side, however, is that most of these programs don't come with a handy "uninstall" option, and if you visit a less-than-reputable website, adware may be covertly installed using a web-browser vulnerability. This means you can end up with programs hidden on your computer which are hard to remove, and are watching what you do. Fortunately, there's a solution.
"Free" Antivirus and the Vicious Cycle
It's often tempting to sidestep a for-pay antivirus software option in favor of free virus protection available online. Unfortunately, these freebies may contain the same type of adware you're trying to avoid, but hidden under the guise of a legitimate internet security offer. Instead of this kind of shareware solution, consider a free antivirus trial from a recognized security expert. This gives you all the benefits of a trusted name in online security but without the risk of unwelcome ad software or the burden of cost. For a set period, usually 30 days, you'll have access to emerging threat detection, suspicious website identification and malware protection; if after a month you aren't happy with the results, simply uninstall the program and walk away, your money still in your pocket.
There's another issue with "free" antivirus solutions — while they'll tell you all about the adware installed on your computer, most can't differentiate between programs you've authorized and ones you don't recognize. Next-gen solutions from security market leaders, meanwhile, provide the ability to create a list of approved adware on your desktop, then isolate and remove programs you don't want. Instead of destroying all ad programs on a computer — including some needed for freeware installations to run — sophisticated protection solutions recognize that some programs fall into a "gray area," where user choice is a critical component.
Not all adware is "badware." Keep your computer safe and your permissions intact with a free trial of high-quality antivirus software, and avoid the vicious freeware cycle.
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