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Adware vs. Spyware: What Is the Difference?

Adware and spyware are both forms of malware that can infect your computer without your knowledge. Both are malicious software that you should prevent with advanced cyber security measures. Here are few facts about each type of malware.

What is adware?

Adware is malicious software that automatically displays advertisements online to generate revenue for its author. Advertisements may appear in the user interface of the software, onscreen during the installation process, or in a browser.

While adware is not always dangerous, in some cases it may be designed to analyze the Internet sites visited, present advertising content, install additional programs, and redirect your browser to unsafe sites. It can even contain Trojan horses and spyware.

Adware can be bundled with software or a game that the user wants. In many cases, during installation the bundle will access a third-party server that delivers the most current adware or add-on without ever touching the drive. Additionally, the same adware installers might hijack the delivery mechanism and can be utilized to deliver a much higher-severity malware.

What is spyware? 

Spyware is malicious software code that runs secretly on a computer, gathers information about the user and their browsing habits, and then transmits that information back to a remote entity. Rather than disrupting a device's operations, spyware targets sensitive information and can grant remote access to hackers.

The purpose of spyware is to collect information about a person or organization without their knowledge and transmit that information to another entity for financial gain. That is why spyware is often used to steal financial or personal information. One specific type of spyware is a keylogger, which records the user's keystrokes to reveal passwords and other personal information. This makes it a high severity threat.

How can I prevent malware like adware and spyware?

To improve your security posture, install an adware blocker in your web browser. Today's advanced threats require constant vigilance to ensure tested solutions remain effective against the daily emerging threats. Learn how Cisco cybersecurity solutions are designed to block, root out, and destroy malware including spyware and other common worms used in cyber attacks.