3 ways to Block Ads

December 14, 2023

[avatar user="Jamie Poindexter" size="thumbnail" align="left" link="attachment" /]byJamie Poindexter|Jul 25, 2021|Jamie's Tech Corner,Our blogAds are a part of life these days, they popup on our computers and even our phones. They show up in our email and through text messages. Ads are a pain, don’t get me wrong they are good in some cases. They provide revenue to companies and inform users of a product or service. But like many things they are taken advantage of. Malicious ads are used to trick a user to downloading a bad program or other method to infect a user. An actor can pay a legitimate advertiser to display a malicious ad on a website that can infect any user visiting it. So just because you visit trusted and well-known sites doesn’t make you safe from these ads. I will provide 3 methods of varying difficulty to reduce or eliminate these malicious ads.Browser Extension:The first and easiest way to block these ads is through an extension or add-in installed in the browser. This will only be able to blocks ads in the browser its installed on. One of the more well-known extensions for Chrome is called “Ad block” you can install and read more on it here. Once installed you are instantly protected in the browser that it was installed on. Its available on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari and mobile devices. So, you are covered no matter what you use to browse the web. The extension works out of the box to block ads, Crypto Miners and malware. It uses a database to check the sites and ads against so they can be removed.

Windows Application:This method is similar to the extension in that you install this on the PC you are protecting. The difference is that with the Windows application everything that is connecting to the internet is protected and not just the browser. So, if you have a 3rd party app that uses the internet it will be checked by the application in the event it connects to a malicious actor.Adguard does this and is available on Windows and mobile devices. For the windows version it uses automatically updated filters to tell it what to block. These filters can be edited to remove or add new things to block. The mobile version does this as well but instead uses a VPN to pass all traffic through so it can be monitored and blocked. This way the apps as well as protected and not just browsers. You have the option on what to block so you can allow useful ads but block malicious or annoying ones.

Adguard also installs an extension in the browser like Adblock does. This is used to allow or exclude certain sites. So, if a site has a element that is being blocked that shouldn’t be you can exclude it either temporarily or permanently.

Network Wide Blocking:The last option we will discuss is whole network ad blocking. The previous 2 options only affect the device they are installed on. And if you don’t want or can’t install programs on a given device you need another way to protect it. Pi-Hole is a free network-wide protection that runs on Linux. It works as a replacement DNS server for the whole network. Normally the router or modem on the network will receive DNS requests from the devices and forwards them to the internet to then return with the IP address to use for that website. Pi-Hole replaces this and when a request comes in it checks its database to see if it’s a threat or a good request. If the request is good, it will forward it to the internet just like before but if its on its list of bad sites it will instead forward it to a black hole or a invalid address. This effectively blocks the ad and prevents it from loading. This is last on the list because it does need some knowledge of networking and Linux to setup. The pi-hole.net does a good job of explaining it and first you will need a Raspberry pi or another device that’s not being used to act as the DNS server that runs the service. A Raspberry pi is a small inexpensive computer that once setup can be plugged into the power and ethernet and left alone to do its work. Pi-Hole has pre-setup images ready to be loaded onto a SD card to get it going quick. Once the Pi-Hole is up and running the devices still need to be told to use it instead of the router. This is usually done on the routers setup portal and you can choose the IP address of the new device you setup earlier so everything is routed through the Pi-hole.

Here we can see the portal that is created when Pi-Hole is installed so it can then be managed from any PC on the network.