- March 16th, 2016
- 1 Comment
Online Privacy, PC security
Is there anything more annoying than internet ads?
True, being attacked very slowly by hundreds of fuzzy kittens might take first place – Touché. But internet ads come in at a close second.
Chances are that you have heard at least a little bit about the debate between internet advertisers and publishers versus the makers and proponents of ad blocking software. It’s a debate that neither side wants to lose, nor do they want to make any concessions. And the ramifications might very well be huge.
Ad Blockers VS Ad Creators
On one side of the ring stand individual users, who contend that internet ads are annoying, insulting and intrusive. They use up precious resources, especially on mobile devices, they nuke the browsing experience, they track your every move. And, oh yeah, did we mention that ads can sometimes harbor malware?
You might think this would be all the proof you need to condemn internet ads and the people who create them to internet heck.
But interestingly enough, there is another side to the story and there is at least a glimmer of truth to their argument. Ad publishers and website owners give us something – great content for free. We get to read articles, find great recipes and share funny memes, all gratis. All the website owner and ad publisher ask is that you click on their ads –it’s how they make a buck. For every time a user clicks an ad, the publisher and the owner get a small kickback, even if you never buy a thing. For publishers and owners internet ads are what keep the lights on and the water running. Moreover, it’s what keeps great content flowing.
But the publishers seem to be fighting a losing battle – Because the truth is that nobody likes or wants their ads.
To this end, a new crop of ad blocking software has blossomed, finally giving people the right to choose the ads they see and how they are tracked.
Enter iOS 9
In August 2015, when the iOS 9 debuted, it had a new feature – the ability to download ad blocking apps. Previously, iOS didn’t support ad blocking, and though it was important to some users, it wasn’t on the tip of everybody’s tongue.
But suddenly when iOS began to allow blocking mobile ads, the issue seemed to take on a life of its own.
This is a great turn of events for users – but as you could guess, it has sent internet ad proponents scrambling to figure out how to circumvent the blockers. The business of getting around the blockers in its own right is budding. Firms like Pagefare create ads that conform to the strict guidelines set forth by ad blockers, allowing publishers to recoup some of their losses.
This is all fine and well.
Whether you’re a pro-ad-cheerleader or a freedom-from-tracking-fighter, you can sleep well at night, with the knowledge that your side does have at least some merit to it.
The other problem with ads
But there is another problem with internet ads – internet ads often, yes often, contain malware.
In 2015, the rate of malware-containing ads TRIPLED. The straight up truth is that hackers and scammers use infected ads to douse computers and devices with trackers, malware, backdoors and zero-day attacks all the time. And there isn’t much ad publisher and owners can do about the problem.
Case in point – This past Halloween, Pagefare, the very same firm that helps ads get through the blockers was a victim of hack that forced their servers to insert malware into the very ads they helped serve. The malware came under the guise of a fake Adobe Flash update and if the user took the bait and “updated” they wound up getting infected.
Want more proof that, no matter how you slice it, there’s more heartache in ads than they are worth?
Look no further than the esteemed Forbes.com. They make part of their revenue by way of ads. Like a lot of other major publishers including The New York Times and The Washington Post, Forbes asks readers to disable their ad blockers in order to use the site – If they don’t comply, they cannot access anything.
Sounds sorta fair, right?
Well, here is what happened.
On January 4th, after asking readers to disable their ad blockers, an ad pop-under filled with malware was unintentionally released (well, unintentionally by Forbes, that is. It was totally intentional by the creators of the rogue pop-under) and infected users PC’s with malware.
And this is inherently the problem with internet ads – there is very little websites owners can do to protect their users from rogue ads. The reason is this – when a publishing company creates an ad, it gets placed into an ad exchange network like Google Ad Exchange. But it’s not only the good guy submitting ads – bad guys can put in ads too – and the website owner has virtually no control whatsoever over what ads his or her website delivers in the end.
So what are your options?
Well, you can block ads all together with a tool like Ad Block Plus or Crystal for your mobile. Or if you want to allow ads to run on your PC because you can appreciate that somebody out there did take the time to post that rockin’ Enchilada Chile and Guacamole recipe on receipe.com, you can steer clear of malware by keeping your antivirus running and up to date.
Either way, it your choice to view or to block ads. And that’s just the way it should be.