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5 Percent of Web Users Infected by Adware, Study Finds

Adware can strike seemingly out of nowhere. You're just minding your own business, surfing the Web and downloading free software, when the webpage you're viewing suddenly becomes more ad than content and won't let you close the window. Such ads generate profit simply by being seen, and that profit gets sent to the scammer behind the adware.

Such irritations may be a thing of the past to experienced users, but a new study released by Google and the University of California campuses in Berkeley and Santa Barbara shows that adware is still doing a very good job actively annoying users today. Conducted between June and October 2014, the research examined Web-page requests from computers visiting Google's websites.

MORE: Malvertising Is Here: How to Protect Yourself

During those five months alone, more than 5,339,913 Internet Protocol addresses — most of which were computers used by end users such as you and me — that accessed Google websites were infected by adware. To put that in perspective, 5.2 percent, or about one in 20, of the more than 100 million unique users going to Google websites were hit by spam ads that covered up actual content as well as ads that were honestly paid for.

It's pretty easy to get infected with adware. Perhaps you downloaded a free video or audio utility from the Web. Fortunately, getting rid of it can be fairly simple as well. You may need only to run a malware-removal tool such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, CCleaner or AdwCleaner.

For those who are OK with returning their browser to factory settings, we've made instructions for how to clean out Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.

If you can identify the adware that has its hooks in your system, you may not need to lose all your browser settings. Tom's Guide has also produced helpful guides for removing Conduit, PC Optimizer, V9, BrowserSafeguard, Trovi Search, RegClean Pro, and even Superfish, the adware that Lenovo famously pre-installed on its laptops.

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