Google Study: Over 5 Million Users Infected With Adware

A Google survey has detected over 5 million users affected by adware, one of the most widely spread types of malware on the internet, says a report from The Verge. After a computer is infected with such a virus, it starts showing ads on any site a user visits, channeling ad revenue to the scammers controlling the ads. Even if a user is aware of the program that causes the issue, he or she cannot do much to remove it.


Superfish alive and running rampant

Google’s new research arm and UC Berkley noted that the scam is still running despite major efforts made to weed it out. Under the study released on Wednesday, computers visiting Google sites from June to October 2014 were analyzed, and all network requests were replayed to find if bogus ads were still being poured in. During the survey period, the system detected 5.3 million different IP addresses of victims of the adware, making up approximately 5.5% of the total requests.

The Superfish adware was also found to be alive and well and happened to be the most popular ad injector detected by the study, affecting more than 3.7 million page views. Even after getting a lot of flak and being seen in a negative light, Superfish is still running a healthy business, either through other unreported installations, deals or software bundles that trap unaware users into installing Superfish onto their own machines, says the study.

What is Google doing to stop it?

Google meanwhile has launched a number of programs to try to protect its ecosystem in recent months. Last month, the search engine giant announced that it would no longer accept AdWords ads for free desktop software like WinZip, VLC and web browsers, says the report. This comes as an important step because adware generally comes attached with free software.

For instance, if a user had used a sponsored ad for a free Firefox download in 2014, chances are it will direct to the bundle, which comes with one free copy of Firefox bundled with various adware programs like Superfish that allows advertisers to make money. When Google scraps those ads, adware will readily be cut out from Google search, a move that anti-adware groups have been long demanding, says the report. Researchers who were a part of the study said adware such as Superfish are against the basic value of computing.