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Unwanted and potentially dangerous elements

Cookies

Cookies―small files saved on the local device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) when a user visits a website. These files contain information about visitors and serve as an identifier for the web server. For example, cookies store user’s personal settings for websites, allow them to access online service accounts without the need to re-enter logins and passwords. This speeds up and simplifies online shopping. Cookies also store information about goods in a customer’s shopping cart even after browser has been closed, among other things. At the same time, cookies are also used by advertising and marketing companies to track users’ Internet activity, which can be off-putting and invasive to many.

Typically, cookies have a limited lifespan. Once they have expired, they are automatically deleted. However, to maintain a higher privacy level it is recommended to periodically clean cookies manually.

Push notifications

Push notifications―a type of a pop-up notifications sent from websites and installed applications. They are displayed on the screens of the computers and other devices. For example, these can be notifications from sites transmitted through web browsers and shown even when those websites are not opened. With that, they can also be seen on mobile devices in the notification panel (notification bar or dashboard) or displayed in separate windows.

The main purpose of push notifications is to provide users with various information. This includes distribution of the latest news, transmission of important data about services from different companies, notifications about new email messages and messages on other apps, etc.

Push notifications can also be potentially harmful. They can be shown by fraudulent and scam websites, as well as by malicious and adware applications. Malicious actors often spoof push notifications. They try making the notifications look like they were sent from reliable and well known apps and companies to fool and engage potential victims.

Web trackers (web bugs, web beacons)

Web trackers (web bugs, web beacons)―special instruments designed to track and spy on Internet users. They are deployed to collect information about website visitors and to verify the email addresses are valid. Trackers can be used by harmless large companies, but also by cybercriminals and malicious actors (for example, spammers and unscrupulous advertisers).

Most often web trackers are transparent 1x1 pixel images embedded in web pages or emails. When these pages and emails are opened, most browsers and email clients will automatically download these tracking images from the remote server. In turn, the server will trace the event. With that, the server can also receive additional data, including the date and time the content was viewed, the app that was used, information about the IP address, the device’s screen resolution, the JavaScript settings, the presence of cookie files, as well as other information that can help identify users.

In addition to one-pixel images, web trackers can also be implemented through other objects such as banners, menu buttons, scripts, various HTML elements, etc.

Pop-up windows (Pop-ups)

Pop-up windows (Pop-ups)―a type of notification that suddenly appears on the screens of computers, mobile and other devices as a single web page, banner, image or video, or sometimes as an application window. Most of the time they are the result of malware or unwanted software operating in the system after earlier penetration. They can also appear when a user visits an unreliable web site.

These unwanted elements distract and disturb users by showing ads and other unnecessary and useless information. They can also mislead and lure potential victims to dangerous sites, which malicious actors and scammers use to spread malware and perform phishing attacks.

ActiveX technology

ActiveX technology―a software platform from Microsoft Corporation allowing the creation of small client-server applications (ActiveX controls). These applications are special modules similar to applets. ActiveX controls allow users to interact with multimedia and other content on websites. This technology also provides a connection between various applications and the Internet Explorer browser, allowing to use their functionality in it.

The ActiveX platform contains numerous vulnerabilities and is actively exploited by cyberattackers. Using malicious ActiveX controls, they infiltrate users’ computers, infect them with malware, steal confidential information and perform other malicious actions.

If you can avoid using ActiveX, it is strongly recommended to completely disable it to improve safety. You can configure and disable ActiveX downloads to your computer using the Internet Explorer menu. Go to SERVICE > INTERNET OPTIONS > click the SECURITY tab > select the CUSTOM LEVEL option.

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Doctor Web is the Russian developer of Dr.Web anti-virus software. Dr.Web anti-virus software has been developed since 1992.

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