Ditto for Malware on personal computers. Windows seems to be the big target and a whole cottage industry has grown up around the need to scan for Malware on PCs while the Mac seems relatively secure. While all that may be the case, there are a few axioms to consider, and one form of ubiquitous malware that remains mostly overlooked.
Danger Is Everywhere
The first consideration should be the obvious, whether Mac or Windows, iOS or Android. Malware is everywhere, and thanks to viruses that propagate and phishing expeditions all of us face a measure of danger that could compromise our devices and endanger our information.
The second consideration is yet another axiom. The nature of software is vulnerabilities, and once exploited, weaknesses are exposed which can and do occur and could impact our personal devices, but also those cloud services where we want to think our personal information remains safe. It is not.
Malware, circa 2017, is defined this way (a bit lengthy, but worthy reading, especially with the follow up):
Malware, short for malicious software, is any software used to disrupt computer or mobile operations, gather sensitive information, gain access to private computer systems, or display unwanted advertising… Malware may be stealthy, intended to steal information or spy on computer users for an extended period without their knowledge… Malware is sometimes used broadly against government or corporate websites to gather guarded information, or to disrupt their operation in general. However, malware is often used against individuals to gain information such as personal identification numbers or details, bank or credit card numbers, and passwords. Left unguarded, personal and networked computers can be at considerable risk against these threats
Allow me to be one of the first to tell you that online advertising is made up mostly of… and there’s no gentle way to say this… Malware.
Take a look at the step-by-step.
Malware? Or, Advertising? “Any software used to disrupt computer or mobile operations.” Advertising does that with huge graphics, auto-play movies, and a string of malicious ad trackers which gather and send information to be stored online– all of which disrupts the reading experience, uses bandwidth excessively, and does so without a reader’s knowledge.
Advertising? Or, Malware? Used to “gather sensitive information, gain access to private computer systems, or display unwanted advertising” Sound familiar? That’s exactly what most online advertising does. It gathers personal information about every viewer, including their device, what sites have been visited and when, which ads have been viewed, and uses the data for purposes the reader does not understand.
Ads? Or, Dangers? “Malware may be stealthy, intended to steal information or spy on computer users for an extended period without their knowledge‘ We know advertising is there, but do we all know exactly what it does? No. Therefore, it’s done without the user’s knowledge, definitely stealthy, and it happens all the time.
Ads Are Malware! Yes, “malware is often used against individuals to gain information… Left unguarded, personal and networked computers can be at considerable risk against these threats” is a good way to define all the advertising that permeates what we view while online; whether using Mac or Windows PC, iPhone or iPad.
About a year ago, Mac360, my website, PixoBebo, and a growing number of other Apple-oriented sites decided that enough was enough. We stopped all advertising trackers. We stopped using Google’s Analytics tracker. Why? Readers do not want to be tracked, but most readers do not know how prevalent and dangerous online tracking is today and how bad it can be. Instead, we fund our websites with a few non-tracking advertisers, all of which have relevance to Apple customers and products. The no-tracker policy even extends to cookies. No cookies. Why? They track users across the internet, capturing data along the way, thanks to other advertising networks. How does any such tracking benefit a user online?
Let’s call it what it is. Most online advertising– the kind that tracks users behind the scenes, takes untold amounts of data and uses it to help advertisers and not readers– is nothing short of the definition of Malware.