Acting as a carrier for more harmful forms of malware (learn more about what that is here…), both Trojans and Adware set out to accomplish the same goal and each goes about this task in its own unique way. Generally, adware shows adverts that either pop-up or are in a window that cannot be closed. By comparison, Trojans masquerade as legitimate programs, but are just in disguise.
Adware is software used to display advertisement on websites. Most of the time it is used to help financially sustain the developer of the website. However, some forms of adware are classified as malicious. The distinction between these two types is sometimes hazy, but a good rule of thumb is if the ads are in a pop-up window or open a new tab, then it is most likely malicious. By contrast if the ads are being displayed on the side of the page, they are usually not a threat to security. Malicious Adverts, if clicked on though, can often lead to infections of worse malware like spyware or ransomware.
Trojans, on the other hand, are always malicious as they can disguise themselves or are bundled with legitimate programs. They have the name "Trojan Horse" because of the siege on Troy circa 1200 BC where the Greeks supposedly used a giant wooded horse to transport their troops into the city. They did this by giving Troy this horse as a reward and promising that they would leave. Once in the city the soldiers where able to come out of the horse and let their fellow Greeks in. The malware is named after this since it does a very similar thing. Trojans often are used in conjunction with other forms of Malware to carryout more complex attacks. A notable example is the Zeus Trojan, identified in 2009. Zeus contained a form of spyware in the code that allowed it to key log usernames and passwords. This allowed Zeus to infect more than one million computers and compromise data of many large companies and banks. In total, Zeus was responsible for roughly 70 million dollars' worth of damage.
While Adware and Trojans are not the most dangerous forms of malicious software, they are some of the fastest growing. Many anti-viruses are now using website scanners to help protect online browsing. If you would like to know more about our personal security recommendation (Sophos) click here, but if would like to learn about other types of malware check out our resources over common forms of malicious software.
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