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When you run across a pop-up on your favorite website, it’s admittedly annoying. Still, you can easily click that little X in the corner within seconds, and go about your browsing.
But when pop-ups randomly show up on your computer and you’re not surfing the web, it’s understandable that you’d be alarmed. What’s going on here? And what, exactly does this mean for the health of your computer? Computer security experts break it down.
What is a pop-up, again?
Sure, odds are high you’ve at least seen a pop-up before, but you might be a little fuzzy on what they actually are. At a basic level, pop-ups are online ads that show up when you visit a website.
“A pop-up is a graphic display, typically a small window, that appears unexpectedly on your computer,” Mikko Laaksonen, chief executive officer of Responsible Cyber, tells Yahoo Life. “The pop-up in itself is not malicious, but is an ad.” Plenty of websites use pop-ups to try to sell you on something or offer you a promo code before you leave, and that’s pretty harmless.
But sometimes pop-ups can be a sign that something is off with your computer. “Browser pop-ups may also indicate the presence of unwanted code running on your device,” Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life. “Likewise, pop-ups appearing on your computer outside the constraints of a web browser are often the result of a malware infection.” (Malware, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is software that’s created to damage your computer or network.)
Even if the pop-ups don’t seem to be doing anything to harm your computer, Steinberg points out that “unwanted adware is malware.” Basically, if pop-ups are showing up on your computer, it’s annoying at best and malicious at worst. Either way, you…