VPN Service Should Offer an Ad Block

Why Your VPN Service Should Offer an Ad Block Feature

Last updated on March 13, 2019 Comments: 2
Adblocker software eliminates intrusive ads which slow down browsing and drain bandwidth.  They also protect against tracking ads which seemingly follow users around the web.

However, these programs have been known to track users themselves, monetizing the data they amass by selling profiles to third parties.

VPNs offer increased privacy, protect web users’ sensitive data and eliminate targeted ads.  VPNs which offer ad block features are an essential tool for protecting the user’s privacy while ensuring an ad-free browsing experience.

In this article

It has been over 20 years since the first banner advertisement appeared on a webpage.  What was originally a novelty has become one of the key causes of discontent by people on the web today.

Many advertisers realize that today’s content consumers are not interested in being bombarded by ads, let alone followed around the web by advertisers, and have changed their tactics.  However, there are still many advertisers who serve ads which disrupt the browsing experience.

Advertisers utilize their ads to gather information on users and track their activity.  They build profiles and target ads to the potential customer.  These profiles are also sold to third parties, in what can be considered a breach of privacy.  Some cyber attackers even distribute malware via legitimate ad servers and websites, creating a significant security risk just by accessing a page with ads.

How Ads Ruin Your Online Experience

Ads which negatively affect a user’s browsing experience include ads with irrelevant content and ads with intrusive content such as pop up ads, ads which cover content, video ads which play automatically, rollover ads, flashing ads, and more.  Additionally, web pages which have a high percentage of ads, leading to minimal screen space for content are similarly disliked.

Web pages which load slowly, due to the amount and types of types are ads are also unpopular.  This is especially true when surfing over a mobile, as ads have been found to consume half of the data usage of mobile plans.

Ads which track the user’s online activity, placing targeted ads on pages for weeks based on the user’s history are both intrusive and an invasion of the user’s privacy.  Cookies and canvas fingerprinting enable ad servers to gather personal information and create a web profile which is later sold to third parties, via tracking, without the user’s consent.

Finally, ads can even breach a user’s security, as cybercriminals use them as a method for launching malware attacks and installing unwanted files and programs on the user’s devices.

What is Malvertising?

Malvertising is defined as seemingly legitimate ads, which contain code or malware which can infect a user’s device when the user interacts with the ad.  Certain malware ads even run the malicious code once the web page is accessed, even if the ad itself is not clicked.

The malware server evaluates the device it is connected with, bypasses security measures and installs malware on the system.  The malware might enable access to the user’s computer and sensitive data, or might even lock the system, effectively holding the device ransom, via what is coined “ransomware.”

Malvertisers distribute their ads via the many ad server networks, and these are hard pressed to identify the dangerous ads, due to the sheer volume of ads uploaded daily.  Therefore, even seemingly respectable sites could be a source of these dangerous ads.  As ads typically rotate, it is difficult to pinpoint which ad was responsible for an attack.

Adblockers – What You Need to Know

Adblockers are extensions or apps which prevent advertisements from appearing on a webpage.  These software programs identify and block ad server domains, effectively serving as a filter for all web content the user receives.  The content is displayed, while the ads are blocked.  The result is a faster browsing experience, as ad-free pages load quicker, lower bandwidth consumption, and a cleaner browsing experience.

Adblockers enable users to whitelist certain pages, providing a customized approach, for when users opt to see ads from specific sites.  This flexibility, combined with the above advantages has led to a 30% growth in the adoption of adblocking in 2016, encompassing 615 million devices by December 2016, according to PageFair.

However, while these extensions offer an ad-free experience, and minimize advertisers’ ability to track the user’s browsing history, they themselves track and gather data on the users and sell this data to third parties.  As such, these programs are exploiting the users and invading their privacy, while providing their ad-blocking service.

Don’t Get Just an Adblocker, Get an Adblock VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN masks the user’s IP address and reassigns a different address, each time the user accesses the web. The user’s device connects to the VPN server, which reroutes its traffic to a different IP address via an encrypted tunnel ensuring a secure browsing experience, which is impossible to track.  VPN’s protect a user’s privacy and help defend them from security threats.  VPN users typically see ads, but these are not targeted ads, and they do not track their browsing history.

When using VPN ad blocker browser extensions the user enjoys a safe and ad-free browsing experience, as adblock VPN’s prevent ads from appearing, disable cookies and block trackers.  Additionally, as the VPN protects the user’s privacy, tracking which might be deployed by standard ad blocking technologies, and then shared to third parties, is disabled.  The result is a faster, cleaner and safer browsing experience.  Some VPN ad blockers even offer malware protection for increased security.  To effectively protect your browsing history from trackers users shouldn’t settle for a standard adblocker, but should opt for a VPN with included adblock modules.

Best VPN with Built-In AdBlock VPNs and Malware Protection in 2018

There are a number of VPN ad blocker browser extensions to choose from.  Below our best choices for 2018 for optimal privacy protection, increased security and an ad-free browsing experience.

How Ad Blockers Affect Our Privacy

As abovementioned, some ad blockers actually track the user’s behavior and sell the generated data to third-party companies, including to the advertisers themselves, so that they can create ads which better meet the users’ profiles and preferences.

With regard to mobile browsing, the desire to remove ads from within apps themselves has compromised user’s privacy.  Certain VPN in-app ad blockers install root certificates within mobile apps, exposing private sensitive data.  These root certificates perform deep packet inspection of all transactions and communications creating a significant security breach, leaving users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.

Why You Need an Ad Block VPN for Android

Adblock usage on mobile devices grew by 108 million in 2016, to reach 380 million devices, according to PageFair.  As the various shortcomings of online ads are even more bothersome over mobile, with its limited screen size and dependence on bandwidth this is not surprising.  Mobile browsers, often on the go, have little time or patience for obtrusive ads which slow down the content access.

VPN in-app ad blockers have been identified as being unsafe as they leave users open to man-in-the-middle attacks.  Non-root VPN adblockers are a safer alternative for eradicating ads for Android devices.  On a device, non-root ad block VPNs, such as AdClear, route traffic to their ad blockers, eliminating ads across mobile browsers and apps.  The users’ data is encrypted and not shared with the ad block VPN provider, protecting their privacy.

In 2017 Google announced that it was creating its own adblock feature for Chrome.  Google plans to improve the browsing experience by blocking ads which do not uphold the current industry standards, such as those defined by the Coalition for Better Ads.

iOS and Ad Blocking VPNs

iOS is no longer allowing root certificate based VPN ad blockers on their App Store, and is denying updates to those that are already in their store.  The only ad blockers currently permitted on iOS are those which use the official Safari Content Blocker API, which works on Apple’s browser, Safari.

To comply with this new regulation, AdBlock by Future Mind has created an ad blocker which uses the devices’ DNS proxy in conjunction with Safari Content Blocker to block ads in apps and searches.

Users can use the DNS proxy to assign any IP address to a domain and block mobile trackers as well as track what activity on their device so they can manually block ads that were missed.  The Content Blocker allows rule definition for blocking ads from different websites and users can create a list of websites to block or allow ads which can be synced across all devices

What is Considered an “Acceptable Ad” and What is Not?

Ads fund the free content on the web, and therefore completely eradicating them is considered controversial.  To this end, AdBlock Plus has instituted the “Acceptable Ads” manifesto.  Websites and advertisers which stipulate that their ads uphold specific criteria are not blocked via their adblock program, though users do have the option to disable this filter.

The criteria were defined with the user in mind, so that “acceptable ads” minimally affect the reading experience.  For instance, an acceptable ad:

  • clearly labels itself as an ad
  • does not contain animated content
  • does not use excessive attention-grabbing imaging or colors
  • its placement does not disturb the reading experience

Adblock Plus also has definitions regarding banner size in relation to placement, so that the ads are as unobtrusive as possible.

To this end, Adblock Plus has created its “Acceptable Ad Committee.”  Additional initiatives include “The Coalition for Better Ads,” which includes industry players such as IAB and Google, and IAB’s “LEAN Ads program.”

While these initiatives are a crucial step both in improving the browsing experience, and in creating an acceptable equilibrium for ad servers and users, it does not protect against malicious ads, coined malvertising, which spread malware via a code installed within their advertisements.

Bottem Line

With the threat of malvertising and ransomware increasing, and as users are at risk from even landing on a page with an infected ad, it is not surprising to see the increase in popularity ad blockers are experiencing.  In fact, in the PageFair study, 30% cited security as their key motivation for installing an ad blocker.  Taken together with the intrusiveness of many of the ads served, and their additional shortcomings in terms of loading times and bandwidth usage, it is clear that ad blockers improve the security and browsing experience of their users.

VPNs ensure users’ privacy, by rerouting their searches via random IPs.  VPN ad blocker browser extensions offer the optimal solution for users who are interested in protecting their privacy, while ensuring comprehensive security from the risks of malvertising.

Article comments

NoName says:

Can I use a VPN as well as an ad blocker, or will they “compete” with one another?

ST Editor says:

Hello! Generally speaking, there is little indication that using both services will affect either of them. In fact, most experts recommend that you use a combination of both to ensure your data remains private. Moreover many VPNs now offer services that bundle together both tools, giving you more complete coverage and removing pesky ads that can hide malicious software