Computer help: More information on new adware

·4 min read
Watch for pop-ups from sites that will put adware onto your computer where it can look like legitimate notifications from Windows.
Watch for pop-ups from sites that will put adware onto your computer where it can look like legitimate notifications from Windows.

Last week, I described a new type of adware that has been infecting PCs of late. I received several messages about them since, so it seemed like a good opportunity to provide more information on how to identify these threats and also how to block them before or if they reach your computer.

To those who don't know, adware as a whole is a type of software that automatically displays or downloads advertising material onto a computer. While not all is malicious, it can be used to carry virus infections onto systems or track a user's activity without his or her knowledge, so it's usually best to avoid or remove them if possible. Typically running an anti-malware scanner like MalwareBytes every will delete them if they've made it onto your hard drive. A free version of MalwareBytes is available for download here: https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/thankyou.

Most malicious adware tends to be browser-based and requires that you click on an unwanted pop-up ad on a website (or something similar) to initiate its virus onto your system. The messages themselves are merely gateways, nothing more, though often they carry panic-driven statements claiming that your system has already been infected and that the only way to solve this problem is to click on them. This is all a hoax, of course, since the infection arrives only after you click.

With these new infections, the adware uses a website's permissions prompt command (when the site you are on asks if you want to "Block" or "Allow" notifications) to push those infection-causing messages into your Windows notifications panel (called "push notifications"). Because of this, their messages look far more legitimate and tempting to click on — though the intention is the same as what's been mentioned in the browser-based adware above.

The "push notifications" referenced here are actual Windows messages that usually appear above the clock on your Desktop. Legitimate notifications often pop up when new email arrives on your computer or when you have program and operating system updates to install. Similarly, you can sync Windows to social apps and login accounts so that notifications from those channels will appear as these push messages as well.

As with most adware, the message conveyed in these malicious notifications is similar to what's seen in the browser-based versions — that you have an infection or similar cause for alarm and that clicking the message is the only way to solve the problem.

As an added complication, these messages (once allowed to appear) often appear regularly, even constantly, due to the fact that they do not require a browser to be open to be displayed. This may cause you to panic and click as well.

But as mentioned before, it's all part of the hoax. If you see a message like this, don't click on the main part of it as this will initiate a virus installation. However, please note that because this is a Windows message, clicking the "X" in the upper right corner of the notification window to close it is safe to do, since this is a Windows command and not part of the infection.

To make the messages go away, you will need to block notifications coming from that source in your browsers, since this will stop these specific push notifications from appearing.

To do this in Chrome, please follow the instructions at this URL: https://www.republicworld.com/technology-news/apps/how-to-stop-chrome-notifications-learn-to-disable-notifications-now.html.

For Firefox, please follow these steps: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/push-notifications-firefox.

For Edge, please follow these steps: https://www.lifewire.com/manage-notifications-in-microsoft-edge-5104663.

Another line of defense is to block requests for notifications from websites when you see them online. While many of these requests are from legitimate sources (news organizations, etc.), there are many fraudulent ones as well, so it's best to err on the side of caution and block all of them. So when surfing the web and you receive a prompt to "Allow" or "Block" notifications from that site, click on "Block" instead of "Allow" and this will stop any potential push notifications from that site (real or not) from landing on your Desktop.

For more information on how push notifications work or how to block them, please visit this page: https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/push-notifications-security-risks-how-to-disable.

Untangling the web

songfacts.com

"Find out the stories behind the songs, get the lyrics... watch the videos." So states the "About" page to this large music reference site, which not only houses a near-comprehensive collection of song lyrics for nearly every song ever recorded (regardless of genre) but also includes extensive forums where visitors can share their interpretations, memories and thoughts about these songs and lyrics. User postings can be found in the expansive forums as well as in the comments area on the individual song lyric pages — use the site's search function to find a specific song or browse all the content available via the main navigation. The site is free to use.

Contact Eyal Goldshmid at egoldshmid@yahoo.com.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Computer help: More information on new adware