Ad-injection is an increasingly annoying and dangerous problem
There are basically two reactions people have when they see ads in their browser. Some think they add interesting content and possibilities, insights and ideas or even, opportunities. The other group considers them as a distraction, an invasion and a disruption to what they were doing.
But most everyone will agree, once you begin something on your laptop or mobile, especially if it’s work-related task, you want to continue what you started. Lots of people get so into what they’re doing that they don’t see or think of anything else, and when an unwelcome ad comes through, it breaks the concentration. Some will say this is a man’s perspective. But even some women I talk to agree; even though they always say they are multitasking and (cough, cough) never lose focus.
When it comes to security, ads are becoming more and more a vehicle for malware. Ad-injecting malware is really a threat nowadays. Once on your device – computer or mobile – the malware will drop new ads into any (or most) sites you visit, sending ad revenue back to remote cybercriminals. For example, malicious porn ads use this type of redirection and clicking techniques.
Research conducted by Google from June to October of 2014 concluded that deceptive ad injection is a significant problem on the web today. They identified tens of millions of instances of ad injection and detected 5.3 million different IP addresses infected with adware, 5% of the total testing group. The research also found that Superfish, one of the notorious businesses that have ad injection libraries, was alive and well, not only pre-installed on Lenovo laptops, but breaking SSL protections for any other computer running it in background.
Ways to control unwanted ads in your browser
Most Internet users are familiar with this problem all too well: After downloading a video player, Java, Flash updates or other software, the browser has suddenly changed. New buttons and icons in all colors and sizes along with an URL entry bar take up valuable real estate on your browser. The browser runs noticeably slower – and the results look different. Most annoying is that the advertising becomes more prominent.
Over the past two years, Avast Browser Cleanup has identified more than 60 million different browser add-ons which are often bundled with other free software, such as video players, Java and Flash updates. These toolbars typically occupy the horizontal space below a user’s browser and can include buttons, icons, and menus. Despite removing and re-installing a browser, toolbars will often remain, which is a behavior similar to malware.
VPN service Hola, which has millions of users, recently came under fire for not being as up front with their users as they should have been. In the past weeks it has been revealed that Hola does the following:
- allows Hola users to use each others’ bandwidth
- sells their users’ bandwidth to their sister company Luminati (which recently helped facilitate a botnet attack)
- and, according to Vectra research, Hola can install and run code and additional software on their users’ devices without their users’ knowledge.
If you are an Hola user or if you know someone who uses Hola, please make sure you/they are aware of this.
Only four and half minutes of your time, and you’ll know the highlights of Avast 2015.
Avast 2015 is very easy to use, and many people just install it and let it do its job silently in the background. We designed it that way, but for those of you who want to know more about the features of Avast, we created a video guide to help you get the most out of your security protection.
The core of Avast Antivirus is real-time active protection comprised of the Web, Mail, and File System Shields. These can be accessed from the user interface. Open Settings and go to Active protection.
Avast 2015 includes our new, unique Home Network Security (HSN) which scans for home router security problems. Avast is the only security company to offer a tool to help you secure this neglected area.
To save you time, Avast 2015 has an efficient 4-in-1 Smart Scan which combines scans for malware and HSN’s router vulnerabilities, missing software updates and patches with Software Updater, and performance issues with GrimeFighter. GrimeFighter requires a separate license to fully optimize your PC.
This is one “before and after” picture that we didn’t want to see. Someone contacted the original developers of Chrome extensions Add to Feedly and Tweet This Page with an offer to purchase. Thinking it was a good opportunity for a company with more time and money to further develop what they started, both developers sold perfectly nice apps. It wasn’t until the next automatic update that the true transformation was revealed.
Even though users didn’t know about the sale of the extensions, angry reviews indicated that a change had been made. The app was accused of spamming because it had silently updated the extensions to inject ads and affiliate links. Amit Agarwal, Add to Feedly‘s original author told PC World, “These aren’t regular banner ads that you see on webpages, these are invisible ads that work the background and replace links on every website that you visit into affiliate links. In simple English, if the extension is activated in Chrome, it will inject adware into all webpages.”
Over the weekend, the two extensions were removed from the Chrome Web Store.
How to remove bad extensions and toolbars from your computer
“Both of these add-ons are categorized as “very bad” in the avast! Browser Cleanup database,” said Thomas Salomon, head of AVAST Software’s Browser Cleanup development. “Browser Cleanup will remove them without any trace. This means they’ll be removed the same way as any other bad add-on/toolbar.”
avast! Browser Cleanup lists all poorly rated add-ons, extensions, and toolbars for the 3 major internet browsers, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome, and allows you to disable or remove them. It works by scanning the browser environment, then displays a list of any bad toolbars you may have, and asks if you want the offending toolbar removed. If you authorize it to do so, then Browser Cleanup will remove them.
There are more than 7,500,000 different browser extensions for the three main browsers. AVAST currently receives 1 million requests every day to remove browser toolbars. Read more about annoying toolbars from this blog post by Thomas Salomon.
Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.
1/21 updated number of browser extensions. It keeps growing!
In one of our previous posts we wrote about browser extensions and their possibly unwanted effects on our customers’ computers. Browser toolbars have been around for years, however, in the last couple of months they became a huge mess. Unfortunately, lots of free software comes with more or less unwanted add-ons or browser toolbars.
These are quite annoying because they may:
- Change your homepage and your search engine without your permission or awareness
- Track your browsing activities and searches
- Display annoying ads and manipulate search results
- Take up a lot of (vertical) space inside the browser
- Slow down your browser and degrade your browsing experience
- Fight against each other and make normal add-on handling difficult or impossible
- Become difficult or even impossible for the average user to fully uninstall
Maybe you have already become a victim of unwanted browser toolbars. avast! Browser Cleanup was developed exactly for this reason; to help our customers identify and get rid of unwanted browser toolbars and add-ons. It is integrated in avast! 2014 and is also available as a stand-alone product on various download portals for use by friends without installed avast! Antivirus. Now, about 7 months after the initial release of avast! Browser Cleanup together with avast! Antivirus 8, it’s time for a review of the results. Read more…