Is there anything more annoying than being bombarded with popups and banners when browsing the web or an app?
In a lot of cases, this goes beyond standard display ads and enters the realm of adware. It’s a type of software that displays harmful ads without your consent as part of a cyber attack.
It’s become an increasingly common form of intrusive advertising, which causes both frustration and potential security risks.
In this article, let’s explore some of the most eye-opening adware statistics. We’ll shed some light on the scale of the problem and its emerging trends.
The most shocking adware statistics
Malware is becoming more sophisticated every year. The following stats will make you think twice before downloading suspicious software and apps:
- Adware made up 15% of all malware detections in 2021.
- More than 26% of Android malware attacks are adware-based.
- BeiTaAd is the largest single adware campaign on Android, infecting 440 million users.
- Adware is a bigger threat on Mac than it is on Windows.
- The DealPly browser extension accounts for 30% of adware on desktop.
Informative adware statistics and facts
These facts give more background to the rise of this type of malware and its current position.
1. Gator was one of the earliest known mass adware campaigns, reaching 43 million users by 2004.
A perfect way to illustrate the concept of adware is with Gator. It’s one of the earliest examples on a mass scale.
It’s a software company that created a password manager called Gator eWallet. This wallet had a lot of features we take for granted today, like remembering passwords, payment details, and form info.
However, in exchange for that convenience, Gator sold personal data and delivered annoying popups from its GAIN ad network. At its peak, it boasted 43 million users and millions of dollars in revenue. It also almost went public on the stock exchange.
2. Adware made up 15% of all malware detections in 2021.
The latest figures rank adware as the third most common threat when accounting for all types of malware. It sits behind heuristic malware and trojans. Additionally, adware is more common than riskware tools (11%), hacking tools (7%), and viruses (4%).
3. Adware can be considered illegal in the United States and the UK.
What constitutes legal advertising and illegal adware is mostly down to informed consent and the delivery mechanism. If a user is informed that software contains additional components and may serve ads, it’s not illegal.
However, if the software isn’t open about its components and forces ads in an underhanded manner, it may be illegal. Spyware and adware developers may be prosecuted under the United States Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the United Kingdom’s Computer Misuse Act.
Desktop adware statistics
This malware type originally targeted Windows desktop computers. But lately, it’s also become a big problem for Macs. The numbers confirm it:
4. There were 30 million adware detections on Mac in 2019.
While Windows PCs are plagued with a higher percentage of trojans, Macs face more adware. This was evident in 2019 when there were 30 million detections on Mac compared to 24 million on Windows.
5. OSX.Genieo is the single biggest adware threat found in 10% of Mac detections.
By 2022, the OSX.Genieo browser hijacker had emerged as the most common adware problem on Mac. Malwarebytes found it in 10% of tens of millions of detections.
Genieo is usually bundled with other software and sneaks in intrusive ads in users’ search results. On top of that, it’s particularly hard to detect because of its ability to imitate vital system files.
6. The DealPly browser extension accounts for 30% of adware on desktop systems.
As of 2022, the biggest adware threat for Windows, Mac, and Linux is DealPly. This is a browser extension that users might install legitimately. But it’s also bundled with other plug-ins, software, and malware, so you shouldn’t trust it.
It functions as a discount coupon and deal-finding tool that pops up whenever the user visits common online shopping sites.
Android adware statistics
These numbers show that Android users aren’t safe from unwanted ads, even when using the Google Play Store.
7. More than 26% of Android malware attacks are adware-based.
There’s been a sharp rise in adware on Android mobile devices in recent years. The share of malware attacks increased from 16.92% in 2021 to 26.91% in 2022.
8. Adlo is currently the biggest adware threat with 22.07% of Android detections.
Of all adware detections on Android, 22.07% are from the Adlo family. It usually comes in the form of fake or low-quality apps with intrusive and unwanted ads to users. Adlo has also taken over the Ewind threat (16.46%).
9. There were more than 20 million adware app downloads on Google Play in 2022.
Even the Google Play Store hosts such apps. For example, in October 2022, McAfee detected a group of 16 clicker apps. They had over 20 million downloads.
Basically, they generate fraudulent click revenue by loading ads in invisible frames over the content. Users are then forced to tap them.
10. Adware reached 35 million users via Minecraft clones in 2023.
Adware is most successful when it can ride on the popularity of legitimate content. For example, 38 Minecraft clones displayed adware to at least 35 million users.
While the games have genuine enjoyable features, the malware runs in the background creating fraudulent revenue. It also slows down the device.
This campaign targeted users mostly in the United States, Canada, South Korea, and Brazil.
12. ‘How to remove adware from phone’ is a breakout Google search term.
Source: [Google Trends]
In response to malware spreading even on Google Play, users are increasingly looking for ways to protect themselves.
‘How to remove adware from phone’ was one of the breakout queries in the past 12 months. This counts as a ‘tremendous increase in search frequency.’
Statistics for the largest adware campaigns
The most widespread adware instances in history have reached hundreds of millions of users. Take a look:
13. Fireball is the biggest single adware campaign on desktop, infecting 250 million computers.
Source: [Check Point]
Rafotech, a Beijing-based digital marketing agency is behind Fireball, the most extensive desktop campaign. It reached 250 million computers in 2017. That also includes 20% of all corporate networks worldwide!
The campaign hijacked web browsers and redirected search results to fake search engines with Fireball ads. While most victims simply faced intrusive ads, the campaign also involved spyware and other forms of malware.
14. BeiTaAd is the most widespread adware campaign on Android, reaching 440 million users.
In 2019, Android faced its largest single adware campaign to date — BeiTaAd. It affected 238 apps on Google Play and reached 440 million users. Additionally, it would remain dormant for up to 2 weeks so users couldn’t immediately recognize where it had come from.
The Chinese firm CooTek was in charge of developing the apps, with its TouchPal Keyboard leading the pack. It offered unique emojis and other features not available on the default Android keyboards.
15. SimBad scammed developers to target 150 million users.
In 2019, SimBad hit 210 apps on Google Play and reached 150 million users. Unlike most adware, it managed to trick the app developers first.
They believed it to be a legit advertising tool called RXDrioder. However, it hijacked devices and displayed its own ads instead. Most of the infected apps were racing and shooter games.
These adware statistics demonstrate the huge scale of this type of underhanded software.
Besides the sheer volume of adware detections, official app stores are unable to keep it out. It’s clear that both laws and preventive measures aren’t enough.
As such, it’s crucial for both individuals and organizations to remain vigilant in protecting their devices and networks.
- Google Trends
- Check Point