What is an adblocker?

Many people choose to install adblockers to block disruptive advertising on the web. However, there are some things to be careful about.

15-07-2022 - 7 minute read. Posted in: cybercrime.

What is an adblocker?

Surfing the web can sometimes be frustrating, as annoying adverts can appear on almost every website. The many ads can be distracting, they can slow down your browsing and they can contain malware that can be installed on your device if you happen to click on the ads.

That's why many people choose to install programmes called adblockers to block the annoying ads. However, there are certain things to consider when blocking or removing ads.

A safeguard against pop-up ads

Adblock technology relies on simple lists, called filter lists, that determine what to block and hide, or what to allow to be displayed on the pages you visit. These lists simply consist of a list of URLs in the form of either a "permission list" or a "block list".

When you visit a site, an adblocker quickly checks whether that site is on the block or permit list. If it is on the block list, the request for external content is blocked and the advertisement is not downloaded to the web page. In a nutshell, adblock technology is a set of rules established in these filter lists that determine what to block or not block on web pages you visit on your computer or smartphone.

Filter lists are typically maintained by a third-party community that is not affiliated with adblockers developers or ad companies.

Technically, adblockers do not block ads - they block web requests that download content to the browser. In other words, adblockers prevent ads from downloading to your browser, allowing web pages to load faster and offering a better browsing experience.

Benefits of an adblocker

Privacy

Ads are annoying and can be invasive at worst, and they can sometimes be loaded with third-party trackers. These trackers keep an eye on you and log your habits and data, which can then be sold or used to develop targeted ads. This is avoided with an adblocker.

Protection

What's worse than trackers? Malware! Cybercriminals can infect ads with malware - and while you may think you're safe as long as you don't click on the ads, some ads don't need you to. They can infect your system as soon as the page loads. An adblocker can protect you from unexpected pop-ups and redirects, overlays and malicious downloads.

Speed

Without any ads to load and without all the associated text, images, videos, plug-ins and analytics, the websites you visit will open faster. You don't have to wait to get to an article on Wikipedia or a video on Youtube, and it's cheaper for people using mobile data too!

Disadvantages of an adblocker

Damaged content

Since adblockers disable all advertising and tracking-related content on a site, in some cases it can lead to an unwanted experience. When the app blocks an important advertisement, the site may display broken content to the user.

Ability to access content

As some sites and advertisers on the internet still have ways to block the use of adblockers, the presence of adblockers can prevent users from accessing certain apps and websites.

Not all ads can be blocked

No adblocker can provide users with a completely ad-free experience, as some ads cannot be removed or blocked.

Lack of support for content creators

Some content creators use digital advertising exclusively to monetise their content. Using an ad blocker without whitelisting them can reduce their revenue and limit their growth.

What are the best methods for ad blocking?

There are several different types of adblockers that you can use to remove ads.

1. Browser extensions

Examples: uBlock Origin, Adblock Plus, AdBlock.

One of the most popular ways to block advertising is to install the software via a browser extension.

Here, the user visits his browser's add-on store and sets up the adblocker as a free extension.

When you install the adblocker browser extension, it will screen content for trackers, advertisements and malware. After applying the filter lists, the adblocker tells you whether to allow or disable an item.

Based on the rules the solution uses, it can leave blank characters where the ad would normally appear, replace it with other content or simply hide the element.

As a result, users can get rid of most ads while surfing the web via the browser where the ad-blocking extension is installed.

On the other hand, since it is a browser extension, the adblocker does not have access and cannot block unwanted contentld in other apps installed on your device.

2. Adblocker browsers.

Examples: Opera, Brave, Firefox Focus.

Adblocker browsers are internet browsers with built-in ad blocking features.

They work in much the same way as browser extensions, as they can effectively disable advertising on the web.

Although users do not have to worry much about installing an extension to eliminate advertising, browsers with built-in ad-blocking features are often well-optimised and perform better than extensions.

It is also important to mention privacy browsers. Instead of blocking ads, they will block trackers to ensure a high level of privacy for users.

3. Adblockers for mobile

Examples: Wipr, 1Blocker, Blokada, AdAway.

Beyond the web, mobile users encounter many ads in the apps they have installed on their smartphones.

For this reason, they can install an adblocker for iOS or Android to disable ads both on the web and in applications.

On a side note, since browsers do not support extensions on some mobile devices, adblock browsers have become increasingly popular on smartphones.

How to block ads with browser extensions

How an adblocker is enabled depends on the browser you use.

How to remove ads from Chrome

If you use Google Chrome and want to remove ads here, you need to download a program called AdBlock Extension. This program also allows you to select the websites where you would like to see acceptable ads. Once you are on a website, you can click on your AdBlock Extension and choose to remove the websites where you would like to see advertisements.

How to remove ads from Firefox

If you use Firefox, you will need to use the AdBlock Extension Plus application. This is an adblocker tailored for the Firefox browser. You can also customise it here according to the websites where you want to block ads.

How to remove ads from Safari

To remove ads from your Safari browser, use the same adblocker as for Chrome. However, you need to use the version that is compatible with Safari. You will see this when you search the application.

How to remove ads from social media

It's possible to block ads on Facebook, but the medium doesn't make it easy. There is no one way to block or remove all ads, but it is possible to adjust the amount of ads in ad settings. When an ad pops up, you can remove it by tapping the three dots icon and clicking the 'Hide Ad' option.

You can also choose to download Adblock Plus, a browser extension for several browsers.

Do I always have to have an adblocker active?

Adblockers can make your internet user experience much better, but they are sometimes a disadvantage for the websites you visit.

Often website owners make a living from the adverts that appear on their site. If you have activated your adblocker, which blocks an advertisement, the blocked advertisement does not count as a view for the website owner. And they therefore do not earn any money. If there are websites that you use very often and value highly, it is a good idea to turn off the adblocker so that the website owner can earn money from the advertisements.

Choose the right adblocker

There are many different adblockers and it is important to find one that suits your needs and system.

  • Research all adblockers to make sure the one you choose is not a bad or fake product. Always read the reviews of the adblockers.
  • It is beneficial to make sure that the adblocker can block all categories of advertising, including video ads, pop-up ads, banner ads, etc. An adblocker like Adblocker Ultimate can block all ads, while Popop Blocker is designed to block pop-up ads and banners.
  • Check if there is an option to customise an adblocker to your needs. An adblocker should ideally be able to allow whitelisting of websites.
  • Make sure the adblocker has customer support.
Author Sofie Meyer

About the author

Sofie Meyer is a copywriter and phishing aficionado here at Moxso. She has a master´s degree in Danish and a great interest in cybercrime, which resulted in a master thesis project on phishing.

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