Why Do We Recommend Ad-Blockers?

Ads have always been part of the Internet. Now, they’re sometimes dangerous rather than just annoying, with malware-laden ads sometimes infecting ad networks.  Just like broadcast TV, ads also help pay for content. Today, these ads are a major source of work for us. It’s time you blocked them

My Mac may be infected with malware AAAHH

Malvertising:  The Problem

Malvertising is a mashup of the generic term for viruses called malware and then advertising.  Malvertising is advertising that has malware in it.  Most people think of adult sites as a source of malware.  That myth is no longer true.  We see malvertising on legitimate sites like MSN, Wowway, and even the LJworld.  Ads today use ad networks that track where you go.  They target ads to you.  That’s why when you read the Journal World online, you’ll see different ads than I do.

Typically, these ads offer to install special “helper software” like a Flash update.  Other fake ads tell you there is something wrong with your computer and put in a special number for you to call.  Virus software doesn’t block these threats because they’re ads.  The ads aren’t doing anything to your computer.  Those ads trick you into installing stuff in your computer.

Once the bad programs get on your computer, they do all sorts of damage.  They’ll sometimes show extra ads or trick you into buying stuff.  The most extreme cases we see is when it installs “ransomware.”  That’s a program that locks up all the stuff on your computer and makes you pay $300-$5,000 to get your data back.  They don’t always give you your data back either.  We’re seeing health care providers being targeted for these scams.

AdBlockers:  The Solution

STOP

Photo by planetlight – http://flic.kr/p/8k9JhZ

As a freelance writer, I usually ask people to avoid adblockers.  Ads are often the way companies pay the bills (including my bill as a writer).  With malvertising, the risk is too high to allow ads on your computer.  No website that uses ads is safe from malvertising.

There are two ad-blockers I recommend:  Adblock Plus and Adblock.  These programs work on most browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

Some sites don’t let you use adblockers.  For example, Forbes doesn’t let you use an adblocker.  The first day they started that policy, their site was infected with malvertising.  All adblocker programs let you “whitelist” or give permission to certain sites to show ads.  That setting is easy to configure.  Other clients use a special browser just for ads.  I do that on my computer.  I don’t use Firefox much, but that’s the browser I use for sites that require ads (like Forbes).

Preventative Maintenance

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These sneaky malware companies desperately want to infect your computer.  One way to prevent this problem is to keep your programs up-to-date. We recommend Patch My PC and install it on most client computers.  If we’ve seen your computer, Patch My PC is probably on there.  It checks all the programs on your computer and suggests security updates.  Those updates help avoid the risk of you falling for a scam.

All clients on a PC should be running an antivirus program.  Some of these programs are free, but most expire after a year.  The free ones want you to re-register the program.  Roughly 20% of the clients we see don’t have a working antivirus.  With our remote-control software, we can check to see if it’s running and your programs are up-to-date.  That check-up usually takes about 15 minutes, so it costs $20 for us to remotely take a look.  If you aren’t sure how to do these updates yourself, it might be good peace of mind for us to check.

What have your experiences been with ad-blockers?  Let us know in the comments.

Photo by gettheshot75

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