Adware, Spyware, PUP/PUAs & Co

Ads, Unwanted Programmes and Spyware

What is it and how can I protect myself?

My browser's home page has changed, I suddenly have a unique toolbar in my browser that I have not knowingly installed; I constantly receive ads that are tailored to my search habits.

The IKARUS experts point to adware, spyware or PUAs. Our security specialists explain what exactly these terms mean, which identifying features are present, how to check whether your computer or data is in danger and what's the best way to protect yourself from it.

Difference between adware, spyware and PUP/PUAs


What is adware?

The word “adware” consists of two English words: “Ad” (advertisement) stands for advertisement and ware comes from the word “software”. Thus, it is advertisement software. This type of software mostly inserts unwanted ads, e.g., in the browser.

What is spyware?

This word also has its origins in English and “spy” here stands for espionage. Spyware works at 2 different levels.

On the one hand, ads are inserted for the user like adware. Moreover, sensitive data, such as your personal surfing habits, are recorded and sent to third parties for profit.

Your PC and Internet habits (e.g. search inquiries) are monitored to determine as precisely as possible ads which may interest you. For instance, whenever you search for chocolate online, you will be repeatedly shown ads for chocolate, even if you no longer search for it. If you now click on this type of ad insertion, then a third party will profit from it.

What are PUPs aka PUAs?

The abbreviation stands for “possible unwanted programme” (or application) and translates as possibly-undesirable programme. This term includes any programmes and applications that are of no use to the user or undesired by the same. We will go over some examples later on.

What does not constitute adware, spyware, PUPs or PUAs?

Software that is acquired/used as freeware and advertises the full version does not fall under this definition.

How can this software be detected? What are the criteria?

Click to enlarge
Softonic Downloader
  • Software which apparently is of no use to the user (e.g. downloaders that only download additional software and possibly install additional toolbars or programmes; see image on the left)  
  • Software grants itself permission to pass on data to third party persons (such as e.g.: surfing habits) in the EULA/License agreements
  • Software that changes the homepage (without asking)
  • Software without a precise description of the reasons for which it is to be installed
  • Installation packets which were additionally-loaded with adware but otherwise do not differ from the original setup.

Examples of such software:

  • Softonic Downloader
  • Installrex (add-on during setup)
  • Browser Protector (installs itself in the background without asking)
  • any many more



What can one do about it? How can one protect oneself?

Click to enlarge
IKARUS anti.virus protects from malware and SPAM but also from adware, spyware und PUPs.

To avoid unwanted ads in the browser, there are so-called “ad blockers” such as the popular AdBlock Plus. They are relatively-easy to configure, and block all ads most of the time, but if you wish to display ads on one site, then it can be exempted. Some sites in particular can only be viewed when ads are allowed.

To prevent or avoid the installation of unwanted programmes, we recommend doing these three things:

  • Create 2 accounts on your PC, one with which you work, surf play, etc. with restricted privileges, and another as an administrator account for installing programmes and configuring the computers. Use the administrator account carefully.
  • If you do not have experience installing programmes and configuring your computer, then seek help from experienced users or administrators.
  • Download software from the publisher, if possible. If the software is only provided via download portals, make sure that they do not download from dubious websites. A negative example of such is Softonic

IKARUS also wishes to protect their customers from having their computer work interrupted by excessive use of computing power due to ads or pop-up windows (e.g.: browser). With IKARUS anti.virus, you will be notified and warned about adware and other possibly-unwanted applications.

© 2019 IKARUS Security Software GmbH