The following tutorial demonstrates how to remove the Highlighted Words Counter malware from your computer.
Highlighted Words Counter is a web browser extension that claims to highlight words, but it also shows advertisements without your knowledge on the webpages that you visit, much the same way adware does.
Apart from this browser extension being responsible for the ads that you’re shown instead of a file that is installed on your computer, there is little difference between it and traditional adware: you’re being shown ads that are not ads you would typically see when you’re visiting the webpages that you’re visiting.
Sometimes adware can show you an extra layer of ads over the ones that you get from the webpages that you visit while other times the adware can block the ads from the websites first and then replace them with advertisements from their own networks. Either way, the idea behind the adware is to make revenue directly from you viewing and clicking on the ads that are being run by the browser extension that you’ve installed; no revenue is going to the websites that you visit.
Sometimes when you try removing malicious files from your computer, they can come back again and re-enable themselves. That’s why when removing adware you should use an antimalware program or adware cleaner program and not just remove the browser extension. A decent modern web browser will also give you the option of resetting the browser should you need it, but it isn’t always necessary for removing adware.
What is Adware?
Adware is advertising-supported software. Adware is a type of malware. What distinguishes adware from other advertising-supported software is it is injected into your web browser to take revenue away from the websites you visit, without offering you something in return. The sole purpose of adware is to display advertisements on your computer any way it can.
Software-supported advertising. This is a broad term that can mean two different things. When we consider adware as software-supported advertising, we do that because you will find the adware bundled in with other programs, as though they are single files. While developers may claim the adware they snuck in is what they deserve in return for offering you free files, that is not true. Software bundled in without users’ consent is always spyware and malicious by nature. The only reason those developers have provided the file is so they install some malicious software on your computer without your knowledge or consent. This differs greatly from how other people using the term “software-supported advertising,” namely when you have ads being shown from a program as a means of supporting a free version of the tool that you may be using.
Malware. Adware is always malware. Any programs that display banner ads—or other styles of ads—the same way websites do are not displaying what we should consider adware. Everyone who is offering you something has the right to show some ads around that program or application as a means of making some revenue. That is considered normal behavior from a publisher online or developer of computer software—even Windows 10 OS comes with some ads. Adware is malicious software that does nothing for your computer apart from displaying as many intrusive ads as possible on your computer’s display, which usually happens when you visit a website. Someone who does not know any better may just grow to hate advertisements because they think the ads they are seeing are coming from the websites rather than a malicious adware program that is injected them from the browser.
How to Remove Adware?
If you use your computer lots, you may want to look into keeping an antimalware program running in the background—they prevent malware from being downloaded by detecting it hidden in files, and they scan your system periodically to keep it malware-free. Most reliable antimalware programs are paid programs that only offer free trials, so you need to pay for that level of protection. Otherwise, there is a tweak you can make to the default antivirus software that comes with the Windows operating system, which we will show you how to make in the tutorial below.
Windows Defender does not by default remove all malware such as adware; instead, you need to enable PUP protection first. And even then, it may not be reliable enough to do the job.
Tips to Avoid Malware in the Future
If you have malware on your computer, you can always install an antimalware program and run a scan to try to remove it. But some experts suggest that even if you do that, it is not a given that all malware can be removed—once it gets access to your system, some of its associated files may prove close to impossible to extract.
So naturally, that means you should try preventing the malware from getting on your computer in the first place.
Here are some of the most common ways you can avoid getting malware on your PCs:
- Be cautious when downloading. You can anticipate finding malware on some websites more than others. If you are using a reliable web browser, it should already provide timely protection by alerting you to sites littered with threats upon visiting them—do not ignore those warnings. What’s more, try not to visit any websites that you think maybe untrustworthy: Torrenting sites may offer handy legal files, and the founders are not necessarily evil, but you need to remember that random people around the world are uploading each of those files, including the directories of such sites riddled with illegal movie files. A notorious niche for malware is sites that host or share torrents for this reason—not everyone is interested in helping you download free files without getting something in return. Often that return comes in the form of malware tucked away within the files you download, tricking you into thinking that they are only movies.
- Install (full paid versions of) third-party antimalware programs if you can. If your operating system is not providing adequate protection from malware threats, you ought to look into third-party programs. They will not always protect you in real-time for free, but the paid versions often do. That means if the program detects the file you are about to download is malware, it lets you know about it with a warning. At this stage, Microsoft Windows does not automatically block potentially unwanted programs, so third-party protection for malware may still be sensible to use.
- Keep all data and personal information safe. The malware only becomes a problem when it nestles its way into your operating system, and in the precise location that its developer had set out for it. Simply being on your computer does not necessarily mean you encounter computer woes; it is what it does from that position that dictates your computer’s outcome. Moreover, not all malware is trying to cause computer problems. Sometimes it wants to snoop on your data instead. To keep prying malware at bay, look into ways of keeping your data safe, such as using file encryption. Windows 10 comes with EFS for encrypting individual files and also BitLocker encryption for the full disk.
- Keep your software up to date. It does not matter what software you have; if it is outdated, then it may also be insecure. Simply being outdated software does not necessarily open up new avenues for vulnerabilities. Rather, new updates potentially close old vulnerabilities. It can be said with certainty that your software is safe to continue using if you know there are no vulnerabilities. However, if antivirus or manufacturers find vulnerabilities, updates are critical. If you do not want to follow the news every day, it is best to keep updating and know that you are safe. That means ensuring your operating systems are updated with their regular over-the-air software update rollouts. For Windows users, that means keeping the Windows Update automatic updates enabled, so the automatic updates can arrive when Microsoft has them prepared for your machine. Additionally, only uninstall a Windows update if you know your PC has an issue with its current software version.
- Keep networks secure. All your computers (desktops, laptops, smartphones), and other peripherals such as printers, when connected to WiFi, are often connected to the same network. Ensure a secure network with a password. Otherwise, your WiFi connection will be open. The best security today is with WPA or WPA2 encryption. You typically do not have much to worry about here, as all competitive WiFi providers automatically implement it. But make sure it stays that way after you begin using it by not disabling the encryption.
- Do not use open WiFi. You have heard the warning: stay away from that open WiFi you get at airports, unless you need it. The idea behind this warning is because the connection is considered public that it also means people with malicious intent have easy access to it. Thus, the information on your smartphones, tablets, and laptops cannot be properly protected with open WiFi connections.
Method One: How to Uninstall Malicious Programs Such as Highlighted Words Counter Adware in Windows
Here is how you can uninstall the malicious programs manually in Windows from the Control Panel:
1. Type Control Panel into Search in the taskbar and then click on the Control Panel desktop app when it appears under the Best match section.
2. From the View by drop-down menu in Control Panel’s top right side, select Categories and then under the Programs heading, click on the Uninstall a program link.
3. Find the malicious or potentially unwanted program from the list of programs, click on it once so that it is highlighted, and then click on the Uninstall button from the menu to remove it from the computer.
You can now close the Control Panel window and continue using your computer if you like.
Method Two: How to Remove Highlighted Words Counter Adware with AdwCleaner
1. Download the AdwCleaner program from the Malwarebytes website.
2. If you get a message from your web browser that says anything along the lines of “This type of file can harm your computer. Do you want to keep the adwcleaner.exe file anyway?” click on the Keep button.
3. If you are prompted by User Account Control asking “Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device,” click on the Yes button.
4. Open the AdwCleaner program.
5. If you are prompted by User Account Control, click on the Yes button.
6. Select Dashboard from the menu and then click on Scan now. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
7. In a short while, the scan will be complete. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
8. Check all of the boxes next to the threats that you want removed from the computer, and then click on Clean & Repair. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
9. Malwayebytes Adwcleaner then gives you the chance to clean and restart later or now. Choose to clean and restart now to remove the adware immediately. The web browser will not open where you left off upon rebooting, so save any work you have open.
10. When the computer restarts, AdwCleaner automatically opens to show you the results. You can view the log file as well if you like. (click to enlarge screenshots below)
You can now close the AdwCleaner program and continue using your computer if you like.
Method Three: How to Remove Highlighted Words Counter Adware Using Malwarebytes
If scanning with the Windows Security antimalware protection doesn’t remove the Highlighted Words Counter adware, you can try installing third-party antimalware tools instead, such as Malwarebytes, and see if that removes the adware instead. You can also use an antimalware program such as Malwarebytes to remove the extensions and all other related files remaining on your computer, so you don’t have to do any of it manually.
The iOS version will be very similar, apart from needing to use the Apple App Store in place of the Google Play Store. You will not have any problems finding it because your iOS software only comes with the Apple App Store.
1. Download the Malwarebytes for Windows from the Malwarebytes website.
2. If prompted by your web browser with a message that says “This type of file can harm your computer. Do you want to keep the executable (.exe) file anyway?,” click on the Keep button.
3. If you are prompted by User Account Control asking “Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device,” click on the Yes button.
4. Click on the Scan Now button to begin scanning the computer for malware and other potentially unwanted programs. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
5. Wait for the scan to complete. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
6. Select all of the malware and potentially unwanted programs that you want to be removed from the computer and then click on the Quarantine Selected button. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
7. You may get a message from Malwarebytes letting you know that all selected items have been removed successfully, but the computer must be restarted before the removal process can be completed. Select the Yes button to reboot your computer now. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
8. Upon signing back in to your computer, the Malwarebytes interface will open and let you know that the scan and quarantine are complete. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
Note: You can also export the scan results by clicking on Export summary from the main Malwarebytes results page and then clicking on the Export button from the scan report. (click to enlarge screenshot below)
You can now close the Malwarebytes interface and continue using your computer if you like.
Do I Have to Complete All the Methods Before the Malware Is Removed?
No, you do not—unless otherwise stipulated. Your computer will often be removed from all malware by using one of the methods available. It’s when you try one method, and the malware remains that you should try another method in the tutorial.
Are the Methods Listed in Order of What Should Work Better?
Not necessarily. We sometimes put the Windows Security before third-party applications because if you use Windows, you might prefer solving the problem without having installed another program on the computer. Windows Security is also free to use for your duration of using the operating system, which could mean more convenience to you.
Nevertheless, if you prefer using third-party programs, or your computer is not running Windows, then you can skip the Windows Security method and try using the third-party program recommendations instead.
Do I Have to Complete All Parts of the Windows Security Tutorial?
No, you do not. We have listed all the different ways you can run an antimalware scan with Windows Security for your convenience, but you only need to choose one of the methods to remove the malware.
Sometimes you may need to be able to get access to all options of running an antimalware scan—especially if your computer is currently being affected by the malware—which is why we have listed all the ways you can run scans with Windows Security.
Why Do You Have a Tutorial for Android but Not for iOS?
Both apps should be very similar, so we chose one app for the tutorial at this time. We may update it in the future if and when the tutorials differ enough to require separate tutorials for both platforms.
Since Android is currently the more open operating system of the two—and therefore potentially more susceptible to malware—it makes sense that in theory, more people will potentially get malware on Android than iOS at this time. What’s more, you also get far more applications to choose from on the Google Play Store than with Apple’s App Store because Android has more users.
That said, the only reason Android is more open is that people choose to open it—it does not automatically come that way out of the box. So we are not necessarily suggesting that iOS is naturally more secure than Android.
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