The History of Adware

spyware1Over 10 years ago, a new strain of malware was born and christened Spyware. Through large security holes in XP and Internet Explorer, the pay load entered without user knowledge or consent and the drive by download had come to age. None of the popular security products of the day detected nor remediated the new Spyware threat.

Computers were now deluged with pop up ads making many systems unusable and frequently painfully slow. In early 2003, PC Pitstop’s free online diagnostic began to detect the presence of spyware, and offered a variety of spyware solution including Pest Patrol and Spyware Doctor. Perhaps the largest spyware company of the time was called Gator. Once Gator learned that PC Pitstop detected their product, Gator, drunk with ill gotten advertising cash, sued PC Pitstop and our partner, CompUSA. The lawsuit stated that Gator was not Spyware but rather Adware and they were seeking damages.

At that point, PC Pitstop lost our partnership with CompUSA, and chose to settle with Gator and agreed to stop calling them Spyware.

In August 2004, Microsoft released XP Service Pack 2 which closed many of the security holes in XP and Internet Explorer and eliminated the drive by download. Microsoft’s move reversed Gator’s fortunes, and in 2008, Gator closed their doors for good. Was Gator spyware? Of course there were.

Today in 2013, the term spyware is rarely heard, but adware is alive and well. There are no more drive by downloads. Adware now enters through security holes in Java and Flash player. Perhaps more frequently, adware enters by bundling its payload with the installers of other software applications. Then they pay the publisher for each install giving the publishers an incentive to deceive users to erroneously install adware.

Gone are the pop up ads, but adware’s motivations are still the same, to monetize our computers and our eyeballs. A good example is a new adware called Conduit that often calls itself Trustworthy Computing. Once Conduit hits pay dirt, it places an unwanted toolbar, and hijacks all your searches in IE, Firefox and Chrome. Worse yet, once it is on the target system, it is extremely difficult to completely remove.

Just like in 2003, almost none of the major security vendors block and detect adware. PC Matic and a handful of smaller security products block the extremely annoying online pest called adware.

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8 thoughts on “The History of Adware

  1. I had “dosearches”! It hijacked my browser. What a nightmare. Finally found Spy Hunter and it did find it and removed it. But you’re right. Until I got rid of it I couldn’t use half of my programs on the web because the popups blocked the data entry fields. Here

  2. Michael none of this will even slow down until law enforcement gets serious about tracking thesee maledroits down and jailing them for every discovered offence. Mobsters got smart. They hired hackers to create bot nets that set up in a warehouse, steal litterally millions of dollars through computer crime; then shut down and move to another warehouse after three months and set up another bot network doing the same thing, with the same equipment. Currently all we can do is use security programs and cautious good habits to defeat most of it. Some will always slip through because hackers are working hard to attack every possible security hole. It is lucrative involving big big money. NO anti-malware program or antivirus program does anything more than discover a problem "after the fact", after the nasty is already wild in the internet. We will always be slightly behind the curve until law enforcement gets serious.

  3. I had "dosearches"! It hijacked my browser. What a nightmare. Finally found Spy Hunter and it did find it and removed it. But you're right. Until I got rid of it I couldn't use half of my programs on the web because the popups blocked the data entry fields.

  4. I ran across an infection of Conduit on my wife's laptop. Browser Hijacker extraordinaire. The only way I could completely remove it was a judicious and careful manual seach and manual remvoval through the windows registry. bad rice. But I knew what I was doing. If you aren't sure of what you are doing removal of the hard drive partition and reinstallation of windows is one of the few options remaining. Same goes for ransomeware. I advice everyone to d/l teh AVG REscue C and burn the .iso file to CD.( It it free of charge.). A linux based malware scanner run fron CD that has network capability and has ca[ability to update its virus database files once it is launched. You can also run it from bootable USB memory stick.

  5. ANYONE that perpetuates a malicious program onto your computer in an underhand way,or even any program without an obvious uninstaller packaged with it should be put to death at the stake or hung in the village square!!! how many MILLIONS of hours have they cost people getting rid of this villainous invasions on our computers??? They deserve nothing but the death penalty!!!

  6. Computer users must educate themselves to uncheck the extra software that will be installed when they are installing software that they want. Some of these vendors (especially Conduit) are very slippery. It took me a full day to clean Conduit out of my wife’s computer. Since I started using Linux I have not had this problem. But when using Windows I am constantly vigilent. I know that technically Conduit is not a virus, but I operate as if it is.

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