What is Grayware and How to Stay Protected

Blog / What is Grayware and How to Stay Protected

What is Grayware and How to Stay Protected

Grayware refers to programs in the ‘gray’ area of legitimacy which can potentially cause great annoyance to a computer or network, but do not harm your computer in the same way a virus would.

Although grayware itself doesn’t harm your computer significantly, it can provide a gateway or distraction for more harmful software (e.g. malware) to gain access and embed itself into the system. Malware may be bundled with grayware for this exact purpose. 

It may provoke security threat detection alarms that distract from bigger threats as well as, at the least, eat away at a computer’s bandwidth, slowing it down as the software runs in the background. 

Most common grayware 

The two most common types are adware and spyware. 


  • Bombards you with advertisements 
  • Is intended to make money from the advertising 
  • Collects your location and browser history to display targeted ads 
  • May send data to third parties 
  • Can make your computer less responsive 


  • Tracks and records your online behaviour 
  • Steals confidential and personal information such as login details and banking information 
  • Sends what it collects to third parties, usually for marketing purposes 
  • Will typically run in the background covertly to avoid detection 

Adware and spyware are often bundled together and work in combination: the spyware collects information about you and creates a profile, feeding that information about you to the adware which in-turn delivers targeted ads. 


The increased use and reliance on mobile devices has resulted in a change in emphasis from installing adware on computers to smartphones. When mobile adware (madware) takes hold of your phone you are faced with a bombardment of ads from multiple directions. This can include: 

  • Texts 
  • Notifications 
  • A changed phone ringtone 
  • Popups 

The software can also become a privacy and security issue, gathering data about your location, phone number and contacts.  

In 2020, madware attacks grew markedly from the previous year, representing 57 percent of all types of mobile threats

How to stay protected 

Stay alert: The simplest thing you can do to keep protected from grayware, or indeed almost any potentially malicious attack is to always be alert. Make sure you understand what you are signing up for or downloading and always be wary that it could be an illegitimate attempt to exploit you. Warning signs include free addons and pre-checked boxes. 

Stick to trusted sources: Only use apps and programs and download from providers that are legitimate, trusted and reputable. Avoid cracked software as this is often embedded with grayware and malware, even if it looks the same as the legitimate version. 

Keep devices and software up to date: Ensure devices and software are running the latest version. Cyber attacks exploit vulnerabilities in dated versions, but most often these will be patched in updates. Using up-to-date browsers is also important as they come with additional protection. 

Internet security software: These are designed to protect you and your device from threats such as grayware. They can scan items downloaded, and the device itself, to check for threats and can also prevent installation if there is an identified risk. 

Emails are a hotspot: The most common way Grayware and other Malware is installed is via phising mails. Never open attachments from unknown senders or that may look suspicious.  

Train your team: Security awareness training is key to ensure employees are well-versed in good practice for remaining protected. Knowing how grayware becomes installed on a device can prevent it happening at all. Another way could be monitoring all activity and outlawing all non-work-related downloads. 

Protect your business with Securiwiser 

More than just being a nuisance, grayware can be a security threat. It can collect personal information about you and send this to third parties and can provide an entry for more harmful programs to propagate. Make sure you are following the suggested ways to stay protected.  

For a free report into how protected you and your business are from potential threats such as grayware, click here for a free report.

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