It’s happened to most people: you’re browsing the internet, and suddenly a window pops up informing you that you need to update your software or maybe that you have a virus or perhaps one saying you’ve won a free iPad. Even to advanced computer users, some of these popup advertisements can look legitimate. How can the average computer user avoid bothersome popups?
Luckily, makeuseof has written a helpful article with some helpful tips on how to avoid malicious popups and how to tell if they are legitimate.
The author advises computer users to always check the URL in the address bar. Most software websites have URLs that are pretty straightforward. For example, if you are attempting to download Adobe Reader, the URL will be www.adobe.com. Try to avoid websites with super long web addresses. If you want to view the URL for a website, move your mouse over the link before clicking on it and the full URL will be displayed in the status bar near the bottom of the screen. Google will display the full URL of the search result in green below the link name. In the example below, the mouse cursor is on the link for the East Greenbush Library’s Wikipedia entry. Note the highlighted area near the bottom of the screen that displays the full link.
Try to avoid pages that are full of text and advertisements. If you are still unsure if a download link is safe, check out a site like File Hippo, which is an aggregate site that contains mirror downloads of many popular programs like Adobe Reader and Java. On a related note, try to avoid the Google-ad results, which are usually the first few results that appear in a Google search and are marked with a little yellow ad banner.
If you are mindful about looking at a link before you click on it, you may notice a common trend of link shortening, for example, tiny.url or bit.ly links. How are you supposed to know if those links are legit? There is a great tool called Unshorten.It. You can copy and paste the shortened link and the site will display the full link as well as a small screenshot of the site. There are also various other sites that preform a similar function.
Some other helpful tips mentioned in the article:
- Install a good anti-virus program. Many have an internet security feature that will highlight suspicious links and block popups.
- Avoid searching for things like free video games and free screensavers. These are a common source of malware and shady links.
- There are various browser-specific tips, such as changing your homepage to one you recognize and blocking popups directly with your browser (these options are found in the browser settings).
- If you are a more advanced computer user, you may want to use a browser extension such as AdBlock Plus that will block ads from appearing on a webpage.
- The article gives you instructions on what do if you accidentally click on a popup or ad and seem to be stuck.
If you are still getting unwanted popups after trying the tips discussed in the article, you may have malware installed on your computer. If this happens, there are steps you can take to remove it. Check out makeuseof’s malware removal guide for more information.