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Are Pop-Ups An Internet Security Threat?

Mar 15, 2008
Pop-ups are the annoying ads and other things on the internet that open on your monitor as you're surfing the web. Their main goal is to either get you to visit a certain website or to collect your name and email address for marketing purposes.

The pop-ups that come on your screen as a web page loads are usually caused by something called JavaScript. This is a simple programming language that can be integrated into the HTML used to build web sites.

Sometimes these pop-ups can be useful. It may ask you for your login information or something else to log you into the website, or it might give you more information on something without taking you away from the page you're looking at. Music sites, for example, often use a pop-up for their players. These reasons are all legitimate uses and are quite a bit more acceptable than some of the advertising pop-ups.

JavaScript can control the size of the window and the elements displayed. The status bar or the menus can be hidden, making it impossible to navigate away from the pop-up. Your only options are to close the window using the 'x' box in the top right corner or to click on the ad and be taken to the advertiser's web site. Annoying, huh?

Some of these pop-ups can cause other problems as well. They may be poorly programmed, or they may be intentionally malicious and can cause many windows to be opened. And when you close one, several more open to replace it. When this happens, the only way to get rid of them is to close the browser.

A relatively new kind of pop-up is created using Flash and can be programmed to follow your mouse or to float on the screen as you scroll the window.

One of the more notorious uses of pop-ups is in adware, which often opens pop-ups related to the web pages you're looking at, even if it's not from that website. This adware is supported by advertising, which is why it uses these pop-ups to get your attention. It usually comes along with some other program, which may actually be useful, and gets installed at the same time. If you don't read the license agreement closely when you install it, you might miss the fact that this is going to happen even though they tell you (although it's usually hidden somewhere in the middle of the agreement, where most people never see it).

Another form of pop-up is called the pop-under. It opens a window behind the main window and you won't see it until you close your main browser window. These types are less annoying, but can still be a pain.

It's the nuisance factor of pop-ups that has encouraged almost every web browser designer to include some kind of pop-up killer in their program. The latest versions of all the major browsers have integrated pop-up killers.

You can also get specialized pop-up killer software that will catch most of the pop-ups that the browsers miss, giving you an almost 100% pop-up free internet experience.
About the Author
If your kids use the same computer as you, pop-ups can be a real pain. In recent versions of Windows multiple user accounts can be created to keep your information and settings separate. Get more info about stopping popups at http://www.securitymanor.com
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