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The Ad-Blocking Arms Race. And Why It’s Bad for Your Business’ Security

The battle to keep ads on and off our web pages has flared up into a ding-dong battle.

In the olden days, ads just appeared on the page and we had little choice but to put up with them. But then scammers started making malware-laden ads (malvertising) and using trusted sites like the BBC and The New York Times to deliver their viruses. To stay safe, we installed ad-blockers. Great for us. But not so great for the publications that depend on the revenue from ads.

PUBLISHERS 0:1 BLOCKERS

To counter the threat to their fragile business model, publishers turned to ad-blocker bypass technology which uses some underhand trickery (disguising 3rd party calls as 1st party calls) to make sure that ads get served even when blockers like are in place.

Here’s a case in point. The image above is a screenshot from medicinenet.com with the uBlock Origin ad-blocker plug-in installed. As you can see, the ad-blocker bypass technology used by medicinenet.com is making sure that the ads are showing despite the presence of the blocker.

PUBLISHERS 1:1 BLOCKERS

Did someone mention an arms race?

Not content with having their blocker blocked, uBO created an extension that blocks ads even when the ad-blocker bypass technology is in place. Still following?

Here’s another screenshot of medicinenet.com, this time with uBO’s extension installed. You can see that the ad is no longer showing.

PUBLISHERS 1:2 BLOCKERS

uBO are at pains to point at that their extension only works on certain sites. These sites are documented here.

But that’s not the end of it because some ads are even creeping past uBO’s extension installed.

Here’s a shot from boston.com. Boston.com is one of the sites that the uBO extension blocks. But even with the extension, ads are still showing.

The good news is that you can bypass the entire blocker war by using the Silo secure browser. Silo has native ad-blocking capabilities so there’s no need for plug-ins and right now, they’re winning the ad-blocking arms race.

The window on the left is boston.com in Silo; on the right boston.com in Chrome.

Here is what boston.com looks like in Silo. No ads. And more importantly, no opportunity for malware infestation.

PUBLISHERS 0:1 SILO

 

Further Reading:

Revealed: The naughty tricks used by web ads to bypass blockers

Major sites including New York Times and BBC hit by 'ransomware' malvertising

Silo for Business: Free Trial

 

Simon GibbardComment