Unfortunately, browsing the web can be dangerous due to the many potential threats lurking in cyberspace. Hackers and scammers steal personal information like passwords and bank accounts, and they infect your devices with malware and unwanted software. Many websites contain inappropriate content that can be accessed by minors - exposing them to explicit material they may lead them to interact with online predators.
But outside of the obvious threats that you already be aware of, new threats have emerged from the countless advertisements we face online.
What is Ad-Pollution?
Ad pollution is how we refer to the unfair digital advertisements that bombard us while we're online. This occurs on websites, social media platforms, and other digital outlets.
In best-case scenarios, ad pollution disrupts your overall media consumption experience with slower loading times clogged-up feeds.
In worst-case scenarios, ad pollution delivers you into the hands of opportunistic cybercriminals by impersonating brands and directing users to malicious sites that host ransomware or steal your login credentials and other sensitive financial information. This technique is referred to as malvertising.
The Rise of Malvertising on Major Search Engines
Malvertising attackers buy ads on legitimate search engines and advertising networks on popular websites, including video streaming sites, news sites, blogs, and more. The ads lure you to download unwanted software, or to run malicious code.
Malvertising campaigns are designed to be hard to detect and often use the latest technology in order to stay ahead of security measures. By reaching the web pages through native ads and tricking you that they’re just other content on the page that is safe to click, criminals can steal your personal information such as credit card details or login credentials. They may also redirect users to phishing websites or install malicious software onto a user's computer without them realizing.
For this reason, it's important for you to be aware of the risks associated with malvertising and take steps to protect yourself. The easiest way to protect yourself from the dangers associated with malvertising and the annoyances associated with ad pollution is to install a reputable ad-blocking app.
What is an Ad-Blocker?
Ad-blocking software is designed to block ads, especially ad pollution, from appearing on websites. It works by detecting and preventing the loading of online advertisements, including those in pop-up windows, banner ads, streaming audio or video ads, auto play video ads, and more.
Ad-blocking technology can be found as an add-on or extension for popular web browsers like Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. It also exists as a standalone application that works with any browser. By blocking these intrusive advertisements, users are able to browse the internet without being inundated with unwanted content.
Additionally, ad-blocking technology can help protect user privacy while browsing online by blocking third party cookies or tracking scripts used by advertisers to track user activity across different sites. Overall, ad-blocking software is a great way for users to reclaim control over their online experience.
The FBI Recommends the use of Ad-Blocking Software
For most of the same reasons listed above, last fall the FBI formally recommended the use of Ad Blocking software to protect internet users from malicious online advertisements, particularly the kind which can be used to spread malware and viruses that can damage your computer or steal personal information.
The FBI's public service announcement, titled “Cyber Criminals Impersonating Brands Using Search Engine Advertisement Services to Defraud Users,” recommended that individuals, “Use an ad blocking extension when performing internet searches. Most internet browsers allow a user to add extensions, including extensions that block advertisements. These ad blockers can be turned on and off within a browser to permit advertisements on certain websites while blocking advertisements on others.”
By blocking ads, users are also protecting themselves from data mining practices by companies who use online ads to track user behavior in order to target advertising more effectively. Earlier this year, social media giant Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger) was fined 390 million Euro for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In that case, the courts said that Meta failed to protect user privacy and collected large amounts of personal data without obtaining permission from their customers. This allowed them to gain access to sensitive information such as age, gender, and political views that would be difficult for any other company to acquire through traditional methods. And it made it easier for attackers to trick you with their malvertising.
Ad-Blocking software provides a layer of protection against these threats and helps you maintain your privacy while browsing the internet. With online scams netting cybercriminals billions of dollars yearly, it is important for you to take steps towards safeguarding your information when surfing the web, and Ad Blocking software is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this.