Adware are programs which can be accidently (or intentionally) downloaded from the Internet and who then seek to return to the Internet to pull down advertisements for your review. On high bandwidth connections such as your home DSL or wifi, they are usually nothing more than an annoyance. Through lower bandwidth pipes such as those provided by most satellite phones, however, they become a much more insidious and expensive threat.
I was reminded of the importance of attention to adware when I assisted a customer who stopped by our booth at the Annapolis Sail Show last month. The customer was experiencing consistent problems completing WeatherNet downloads. WeatherNet would dial the phone, handshake and then commence a connection. But as soon as that connection dialog would post, the system would sit and sit and sit until eventually timing out. No matter how many times she repeated the process the same problem was evident. Not surprisingly, she was quite frustrated.
The customer asked if she could bring the computer into the booth on Sunday afternoon at the show.Once there, we booted it up, connected it to her phone and sure enough witnessed the same thing. Before doing anything else we looked in her corner taskbar to see what programs were running. Not surprisingly, a half a dozen adware programs were running in the background.
What was happening? As mentioned above, these adware and most other programs on your computer are designed to pull content from the internet whenever they see an internet connection. It makes no difference to these programs that an internet connection is running at 2400 baud and costing you $1.00 plus per minute over your satellite phone. They recognize its presence and they want to use it to do their deeds. When you then have one, two, or heaven forbid, six adware programs trying to squeeze their activity through the slim satphone pipe, nobody gets priority and everything moves slower than molasses in a Wisconsin winter.
It may be worse on mid-range bandwidth install like Fleet Broadband or Pilot. Here you have bandwidth to allow the adware to run and still let highly efficient programs like WeatherNet or OCENS Mail conduct the business you really want done. So no immediate frustration. Instead, its at the end of the month when you receive your airtime bill that you feel the pain. All those bytes of adware files were downloaded at $10 to $20 per MB. Money that’s totally wasted.
But I digress. Back to our Annapolis Sail Show project. After spotting the adware programs in the taskbar tray, we loaded the computer’s control panel and began uninstalling each of them from the Programs and Features control . Some were more stubborn than others and some left a remnant of themselves which kept asking if it could reinstall itself on the computer. So a thorough cleaning or drive re-format is probably something this customer should consider down the road. However, the impact of adware removal on the WeatherNet transfer process was immediate and striking. As soon as the connection was established, WeatherNet proceeded to the ‘wait one moment for the server to process your request’ message and then began downloading the desired files.
The moral of the story is to be careful what you are agreeing to load onto your computer. The corollary, however, is more insidious. That is, no matter how careful you are, sometimes programs you don’t want on your computer find their way onto it or data in which you have no interest downloads through your satellite connection. A few minutes taken to eliminate those programs now might save a lot of expensive minutes and frustrating experiences later. A reasonably straightforward way of doing this is to download Malwarebytes from malwarebytes.org and run this program regularly to check for and remove malicious malware or adware. It only runs when you run it so there is no concern for it trying to access the Internet itself. A more comprehensive means of addressing this sort of problem is to talk to OCENS about one of our satellite routers that can wholistically block any and all unwanted traffic and allowing only OCENS Mail, WeatherNet and XWeb use your valuable satellite connection.