Malware vs. Adware

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

Malware and adware are two very annoying types of malicious code, found in many people's computers. What are they and how can we prevent them from infecting our own devices? That's what we'll be learning in this lesson.

Malware vs. Adware

It's happened again! Ben's mom has called him up to ask how to fix her slow computer. Ben suspects that malware and adware have caused the computer's speed to slow to a grinding halt because she couldn't be bothered to use antivirus software. While he's over there, Ben tries to explain what has happened to her computer and how to avoid this from becoming a problem again.

Ben's mom asks 'What's malware and adware?' and he begins to explain.


Ben explains to his mom that malware is a harmful piece of software written with the intention of infecting someone's computer. This is also known as malicious code. It's a catch-all term that covers different types of computer programs. For example, viruses are a piece of code that spreads itself to other computers when run. These can be shared by email attachments, CDs, USB drives, or just about any other method of sharing information. Spyware is designed to monitor a computer for information gathering purposes, such as figuring out what websites a person uses and what the passwords might be.

Ben's mom mentioned that she had recently been downloading a few games to play. Ben suspects that these games contain Trojan horse programs. These programs are designed to appear as a safe program but include malicious code. It's important to understand that malware types can describe what the code does or how it is transferred. Different kinds can be involved in the same infection. Upon further inspection, it appears that the games are legitimate programs but contain additional programs known as adware.


Thinking that the games were safe, Ben's mom downloaded a game that was advertised as free because of ad supporting. Adware is a type of malware that creates revenue for the author by forcing the computer to display advertisements. In some instances this may not be intended by the author to cause harm, such as in Ben's mom's game. However, the end result is that the adware is still tying up his mom's computer system resources and slowing things down. More malicious variations can be so annoying that the computer is largely unusable because of constant advertisements appearing on the screen.

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