|This is not the Michelin Man
You may want to think twice about installing that Adobe Flash Plugin
Mac Adware on the rise
I'm seeing a lot of this these days. A client will ask me "Why did my homepage change in my web browser?". Or, “What’s this new thing in my menu bar?”.
That, my friends, is the result of Adware being installed on your computer. Who installed it? You did!
How’d I do that?
You did that most likely when you tried to update your Adobe Flash plugin. Unfortunately you didn’t get it straight from Adobe. You probably followed some link you Googled, and got it from a download aggregator like C/Net or some such. Or maybe you wanted to stream a sports broadcast or podcast stream and downloaded the app from an unofficial site.
If you are a Photoshop user, and it requires Java, that was another infamous vector. Yahoo, of all “people” attached some Adware to the free Java installer you needed to download in order to run an older version of Photoshop on the latest macOS.
How do I know I’ve got Adware?
The number one way is that you all of a sudden have a different “homepage” or “startpage” than the one you normally do. You know, the page that opens up when you launch your browser. Or you may have a new “Mac Cleaner” or “Mac Keeper” app that keeps popping up messages to clean your Mac.
How do I avoid this?
Some helpful hints to avoid installing adware:
- Know what it is that you are needing to install. What is the name of the company that provides it?
- Use a trusted website to download from. I.E. if you need Adobe Flash, go to adobe.com. Don’t use a link from a random webpage to get there.
- Pay attention as you install. The Java thing I referenced above was a legitimate download. It’s just that Oracle, who makes Java, and Yahoo were sneaky. During installation, there was a page with a small checkbox that you had to uncheck to opt out of installing all this Yahoo stuff that took over your browser.
- Stay away from “Mac Cleaner” or “Mac Keeper” type apps. They purport to keep your Mac tidy, and therefore faster. They also feature mascots that look like cuddly robots. But they also put adware on your machine. Pretty much the opposite of what you want. Uninstalling them can be an adventure. They’re like a bad houseguest: once you let them in, they don’t want to go, they mess up the place and eat all your food.
- Keep up-to-date. Being a Mac user, the odds are that you “only” have malware on your computer, and not a full-blown virus that’s taken over your computer. There have been Mac viruses, but none that ever really got distributed in the wild. The main reason that the Mac is more secure is that the macOS has a great track-record as far as security and patching security holes. So let those Security Updates roll!
Just like getting a new machine
Update to the latest macOS if you are not already on it. It’s like Apple is giving you a new computer for free! The inconvenience you may incur from updating your macOS is much less than if you don’t update for years, and then update from several systems ago. I guarantee you that is the case 99% of the time when I encounter folks talking about never wanting to update their operating system. “My friends told me to not update my system, because it caused havoc with their machine. Stuff got broken and slow.”
I am here to say that it caused havoc because odds are they had 15 year old software on their machine that they had never updated as well!
The problem is that you can’t “stop time” on your computer. At least if you want to use it for any kind of internet-related activity. If you want to use it as a glorified typewriter, writing in Office 98, connected only to a printer via a USB cable, then I say have at it! You have saved another computer from a landfill. I love that.
But the problem is, that’s not what people actually do. Of course, we all need to get online. But in order to do so safely, we need to keep our web browsers, email clients and operating systems up to date with the latest security enhancements. So let’s not ignore the updates from Apple as they come in.
What if I think I have Adware on my computer?
Get Thee to malwarebytes.com and download Malwarebytes for Mac. They have a free tier that allows you to scan your computer for Malware, and quarantine it. There is a convenient menu widget that gets installed that looks like what I like to call the “Evil M”. Their logo looks evil, but they are the good guys.
If you still need help, your humble scribe is always ready to help. If you’re in western Massachusetts, send me an email or call. I make house calls.