Do you have popups? Here are 3 ways to stop them, according to cybersecurity experts

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Pop-ups on your computer can be a sign of a malware infection in some cases. (Photo: Getty)

When you encounter a pop-up on your favorite website, it is admittedly annoying. Still, you can easily click that little X in the corner in seconds and continue browsing.

But when pop-ups appear randomly on your computer and you’re not browsing the web, it’s understandable to be alarmed. What is going on here? And what exactly does this mean for the health of your computer? Computer security experts explain.

What is a pop-up again?

Sure, chances are you’ve at least seen a popup before, but you might be a little vague about what they actually are. At a basic level, pop-ups are online advertisements that are displayed when you visit a website.

“A pop-up is a graphical screen, usually a small window, that appears on your computer unexpectedly,” says Mikko Laaksonen, chief executive officer of Responsible Cyber, tells Yahoo Life. “The pop-up is not malicious in itself, but is an advertisement.” Many websites use pop-ups to sell you something or offer you a promo code before you leave, which is pretty harmless.

But sometimes pop-ups can be a sign that something is wrong with your computer. “Browser pop-ups can also indicate that your device is running unwanted code”, Joseph Steinberg, consultant on cybersecurity and emerging technologies, tells Yahoo Life. “Likewise, pop-ups that appear on your computer outside the limitations of a web browser are often the result of a malware infection.” (Malware, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is software created to harm your computer or network.)

Even if the pop-ups don’t seem to do anything to harm your computer, Steinberg points out that “unwanted adware is malware”. In short, if pop-ups appear on your computer, it’s annoying at best and malicious at worst. At least you don’t want to write it off.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

How to stop pop-ups solution #1: Download anti-malware software

Laaksonen says that anti-malware software is a “must.” Steinberg agrees, saying, “If you’re already using security software, run a full system scan for malware.” And if you don’t currently use any security software on your computer, Steinberg recommends getting it as soon as possible.

An option: Malwarebytes Premium. This software helps protect you from malware attacks, as well as online scams and phishing schemes designed to steal your sensitive information, including login credentials and credit card numbers. Malwarebytes Premium can also warn you if you visit a suspicious site. In addition, Malwarebytes Premium helps block advanced cyber threats that other programs can miss, and provides an effective way to secure your devices and data.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

By purchasing anti-malware software, you can protect your computer from malware attacks.  (Photo: Getty)

By purchasing anti-malware software, you can protect your computer from malware attacks. (Photo: Getty)

How To Stop Popups Solution #2: Check Your Web Browser

Steinberg recommends checking your browser (ie Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer) to ensure that no proxies are configured to intercept and forward web traffic or unwanted plug-ins.

“If that advice sounds like techno jargon to you, consider uninstalling and reinstalling your web browser,” suggests Steinberg. Basically, you may need to uninstall and reinstall your current browser to completely fix the problem.

How to Stop Popups Solution #3: Don’t Click Popups

Clicking on the popup can make the problem worse. “Don’t buy anything that’s offered to you in a popup through the popup. Don’t respond to the popup,” Steinberg says.

Laaksonen says that’s especially true if the popup promises you something, like money or a random prize. “It would help if you don’t click on unfamiliar links, and if you don’t open attachments claiming a prize or something you weren’t expecting,” he says.

You don't have to worry about pop-ups.  (Photo: Getty)

You don’t have to worry about pop-ups. (Photo: Getty)

How to stop pop-ups in the future?

To avoid pop-ups on the go, Steinberg recommends practicing good cyber hygiene — that is, making smart online decisions and using software to keep your computer free of malware. A few ways to do that, per Steinberg:

  • Back up your computer and do it often. That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t panic about lost data.

  • Encrypt sensitive data. Encryption is built into many versions of software packages, or you can use a free encryption tool.

  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software. You don’t have to spend a ton on it, but you want to a package that is anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-malware. Once you have it, run a scan often.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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