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by Ray Carlson

Q. I am getting an increasingly large number of ads with my email and in searches on the Internet. Are these ads dangerous?

A. Probably not. You may have unintentionally downloaded a program or browser extension that inserts extra ads. Use a program like Ad-Aware or Malwarebytes to scan for such unwanted programs. Get the former here and the latter here. Both are free.

Chrome and Firefox have available extensions that can limit the number of ads you receive. Check your browser’s help section to see how to view extensions and then click on the option to add new extensions. Look for extensions that restrict ads but also get good user ratings from several users to avoid fakes. AdBlock and AdBlock Plus are examples of extensions that get good reviews.

The greater concern is "malvertising." Cybercriminals have discovered that a particularly lucrative activity is to hide a small computer code in a regular ad. When a person clicks on what appears to be an interesting ad, the hidden malware can subtly move the person to a malicious website or download a virus or a program to scan the computer looking for software that has vulnerabilities. If the computer has updated anti-virus software, it will usually recognize a malicious website or virus. More problematic are software vulnerabilities. All software programs including browsers have small errors that can be exploited to capture confidential information, send out fraudulent messages or the like. Eventually, the software maker is informed about such vulnerabilities and corrects them, so update your software regularly.

Malwarebytes has now added an extra program to deal with this software exploiting risk. It is called Malwarebutes Anti-Exploit. Once installed, it monitors your Internet activity, identifies programs that seem to be trying to exploit software vulnerabilities and then quarantines them. A premium version monitors varied commonly used software, but a free version monitors the most common risks - your browser and java software.

Published: Courier 6/6/15 - Page 11A