Buried in the Ad-valanche

AdvalancheHave you noticed there seem to be more and more pop-up and other ads while you are browsing the internet? Your Mac may be infected with adware. Fortunately, there is something you can do about this annoying scourge.

The line between adware, usually just annoying, and malware, usually destructive, is becoming blurred. Multiple adware infections and/or aggressive adware can compromise the operation of your Mac as badly as malware that is actually designed to disrupt your computer use.

Adware has been a plague in the Windows world for years. Recently it seems to be proliferating on the Mac, but Apple is not yet taking very aggressive steps to curb it. True, they did recently block one of the more pernicious adware apps, Downlite. They also do have a Support Document with instructions for manually removing many forms of Adware. Good luck with that. The steps they list constitute a half-day project.

There is a much better way. It is a free app (donations accepted) called AdwareMedic  which finds and removes all known adware. This tool is good. So good, that some adware was actually blocking the download of AdwareMedic!

I just happened across AdwareMedic and thought I would try it, even though I was sure, being a cautious and careful web surfer, that I did not have an Adware problem. Guess what? I had two Adware apps on my iMac.

So how do you get infected with Adware? Most of the time it is bundled with other software. When you download an app, the adware is downloaded and installed along with it. Sometimes you are even notified that the adware is going to be installed. However, that notification is usually buried somewhere in the License Agreement. Come on, who has time to read those things? The best way to avoid getting adware along with a legitimate app is to only download from the App Store or directly from the developer’s site. Avoid third-party download sources. Softonic and Download.com are two big offenders. I avoid even well-know sites like MacUser and CNET.

While I am venting about intrusive ads, let me bring up another example. Ads in streaming TV. I watched an episode of Modern Family on ABC streaming last night and there were 16 ads in the half hour program. It is ironic that a few years ago network executives were very reluctant to let people stream current TV shows for free and they restricted streaming to mostly old shows. Then about 2 years ago the geniuses at ABC, NBC etc. finally realized that this was a way to force people to watch their ads. Unlike recording on your TiVO and fast forwarding through the ads, streaming video locks you into the ads. At least I haven’t found a way to get around it short of streaming to my Mac, making a ScreenFlow recording, then playing it back and fast-forwarding through the ads. Way too complicated.