Privacy & Security 3 min. read

Adware Doctor, the popular Mac app, is actually spyware (gets booted from iTunes)

Adware Doctor, the popular Mac app, is actually spyware (gets booted from iTunes)

Adware Doctor was one of the top-rated Mac apps on the Apple App Store, with over 7,200 ratings—many of which are five stars. It was also listed next to other utility apps such as Final Cut and Logic Pro, giving it the impression of credibility. The five-dollar app was meant to keep your Mac clean from adware by reviewing your browser history and deleting any extensions, caches, and cookies that may have been stored. The purported goal was to keep your computer running fast, free from harmful viruses.


What Adware Doctor actually does

Instead of removing unwanted malware from your computer, Adware Doctor actually acts as malware itself, collecting data from every user who has downloaded the app and sending it to servers overseas. As a result, anyone who has downloaded Adware Doctor should delete it immediately and install reputable adware software to keep them safe. The app you think is protecting your computer is actually spying on you and selling your data.

How the ruse was discovered

NSA security researcher Patrick Wardle recently discovered how Adware Doctor was truly functioning. In a detailed blog post, he explained exactly how the program stores browsing history from all internet browsers capable of running on Mac’s iOS, encrypts it, and then sends the data to servers located in China. He reported this information to Apple in the middle of August, but the company has only recently taken action, removing the app from their store on September 7. Many customers who downloaded the app from iTunes have not been notified of the way the app truly operates.

Apple has yet to release a statement on the matter, leaving some customers wondering how many other top-rated apps could secretly be storing their data. Be sure to keep yourself safe when downloading any app, as well as when browsing online, reviewing your emails, and using social media.

Adware Doctor malware

How to prevent malware on your device

Clearly, Adware Doctor isn’t the tool many thought it was. So, after you’ve deleted the app, what should you do to prevent malware? To start with, follow the tips below for best practices for staying safe online. By following these, odds are you can eliminate malware and protect your devices.

Additionally, our free Hotspot Shield app arrives with malware protection. It alerts you when you’re on known bad sites and even has a function where it can scan your Android phone itself for malware. If it finds any, you can delete it there and then from within the Hotspot Shield app.

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How to stay safe online

The following steps can keep you safe from hacking attempts:

    • Scrutinize every app setting (location services, for example) and determine if you actually need it enabled for the app to function. If not, turn it off.
    • Use two-step authentication on all bank accounts, web-based email accounts, and social media accounts. This prevents hackers from being able to access your information even if they somehow obtain your password.
    • Be careful what you post on social media. Consider keeping your profile locked down so only your friends can see it. Even then, never post anything that could give away your password or the answer to your retrieval question (e.g., if your mom is listed as a relative on Facebook and she also uses her maiden name, avoid using “mom’s maiden name” as a retrieval question).
    • Beware of clicking any links inside an email as they often contain malware. Examine the link and email thoroughly before taking any action. This is known as a phishing attack, and it is incredibly common.
    • Never provide any personal or sensitive information over email.
    • Utilize Hotspot Shield to encrypt all open, free WiFi connections—like you’d find at coffee shops or airports—to keep your devices secure.
  • Stay on the lookout for any unfamiliar or strange information present in emails that purport to be from familiar people. For example, if your sister has always gone by “Kathy,” an email signed “Kathi” should raise alarms. Hackers are smart, but there’s typically a telltale sign if you look closely enough.

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