What’s the Difference Between Adware and Ad Fraud?

Both adware and Ad Fraud deal with the advertising, but they are designed for different purposes and their operation also differs.
They are practically two of a kind and none of them care about the way of making money. Nevertheless, there are profound difference in their functioning. Let’s look more closely at both of them.


Adware, or advertising-supported freeware, is a computer program designed to display ads on your computer, to redirect search requests to the advertising websites and to collect marketing information from its users.
Adware provides the users with the possibility of non-payment for the software in return of having to look at some advertisements. This model may look pretty appealing to consumers, but there are certain limits it had better not overstep. Consumers may have objections to the number of ads displayed, the kind of these ads (ads aimed at adults, for example), the way of these ads are displayed (like in-game ads), etc.
When classifying adware, security vendors commonly take into account the following: the program effect on users’ privacy, whether users receive warnings and can cancel a certain installation, the nature of the changes the adware makes to a computer system, the easiness of the software’s removal under typical circumstances, etc.
As you can see, according to such classifications, majority of adware programs are seen as PUPs – potentially unwanted programs, some can be called spyware, and some even are Trojan horses.

Ad fraud

Ad fraud has another strategy in receiving money. In this type of a fraud, advertisers pay for advertisements, although the number of times they are supposedly displayed is extremely overstated. The methods of reaching this are really impressive. For example, the advertisers may pay a heavy price for the advertisements which nobody will notice, because there are sites which are artificially made to appear on the top of search results (this is called SEO fraud).

There also are stacking sites, which are full of different advertisements – some of them very small or placed on top of one another. When a visitor comes to such a the site, all these ads record one display.

Advertisers will also pay a heavy price for placing advertisements on a domain which is quite different from the one he expected them to be placed – this kind of fraud is called domain spoofing.
One more scam called click-fraud involves infecting users’ computers with Trojans and making them part of a so-called botnet. Infected systems are made to visit sites and click on URLs. Some fraudsters even hire people from poor countries, and they also do these tasks, working for peanuts.
Both adware and ad fraud make money in advertising sphere, but the ways are different. Users installing advertising software are the main victims of adware, while ad fraud prefers to impoverish advertisers by means of bots.