Browser Ad Injection – What you Need to Know

You probably don’t give a second thought to the banner ads scattered all over the web. But what about when these ads start weighing down your computer, interrupting web pages that were once ad-free, and taking revenue from your favorite websites? Let’s see how to identify these intruders, and get them off your device.

What is Browser Ad Injection?

A thin piece of code from a third-party application, injected advertisements are layered on top of a normal webpage. These ads might appear in locations that are normally empty, or the ad injection might cover the publisher’s own advertisement.

Take, for example, your favorite search engine’s homepage. The Google or Bing search page typically does not contain advertisements (as opposed to their search results page, which contains many ads that are controlled by the search engine itself), but a browser infected with an ad injection may show one or more display ads around the search box.

Many times these injected ads are provocative, inciting you to make bogus updates, or download crapware like registry cleaners or ‘optimizers’ that you don’t need. The goal here is to scare you into clicking their malvertisement or to get you to download something dangerous.

The search engine, or any other page with an injected ad, doesn’t receive any ad revenue for the injected banners shown on their page. The revenue generated from the clicks or impressions of these nefarious ads goes to the pockets of the ad distributors themselves.

Imagine for a moment, that you have written a book and guess what!? A big name publisher has agreed to publish it. You get part of the revenue from the book sales, and the publishing house gets the rest. And now, what a Hutzpah! Your local bookstore decides to place advertisement stickers on the front cover of your book, without your permission and without paying you. You lose out and so does the viewer – and the bookstore makes money off of you. This is how injected ads work.

So How Did This Crapware Get on my Computer, Anyway?

There’s a good chance you downloaded the unwanted crapware via a software installation bundler. The offer might have sneaked by while you were downloading freeware. Perhaps you didn’t uncheck the right box, or you clicked ‘accept’ when you thought you were clicking ‘next’. Malicious installation download bundlers do whatever they can to deceive you into ‘consenting’ to add the ad injecting software, because they get paid each time you download the extras.

That means you have to stay on your toes – ad injectors aren’t very forthcoming about their monetization strategy. These pieces of crapware usually appear as legitimate products such as ‘discount-finders’ or toolbars. But beware; free products that aren’t asking for paid upgrades still need to make money somehow, and it usually comes at the expense of the user.

Wifi Ad Injection

The same ad injection techniques are also a common monetization method for free or public wifi providers. But in this case, you the user don’t accept the third-party crapware – the layer of extra ads has already been outsourced by the wifi provider. Just by accepting the free wifi service’s terms, you consent to their ad injection agreement.

How do you Remove Crapware?

These ad injectors can come in the form of browser extensions that can be removed from your browser menu. To get rid of the crapware that added the extension in the first place, you can try using the uninstaller that the program provides. The thing is, the creep who created the garbage that’s slowing your computer to the speed of a dial up connection, knew you would try to remove it if you found it – so removing it is no easy task. You may think the program has been uninstalled but every now and then, it rears its ugly little head again. Great, now you’re caught in this game of hide and go seek with a piece of software.

Reason knows how frustrating and fruitless it can be to try to get rid of all the garbage that’s eating your computer on your own. Our security technology goes head to head with the offenders, identifying threats and blocking them from your computer before they do harm.

So the next time you download a free program, remember to stay on guard. Sadly, there is no such thing as a free lunch anymore. If you have any security questions or think you have a crapware/malware problem, we’re happy to help out.

Sources:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/mmpc/archive/2013/06/20/ad-injection-and-you-how-adware-gets-on-your-computer.aspx

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/09/why-comcasts-javascript-ad-injections-threaten-security-net-neutrality/

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