A Quick Lesson In Mobile Device Ad blocking
Of course, web browsing and consuming Internet content has slowly but surely migrated to mobile devices. Mobile device use is growing, while desktop/laptop consumer usage is shrinking, as per Statcounter, only 48.65% of Internet browsing activities they detected for May 2019 occurred in traditional desktop/laptops. The rest of the browsing activities happened through a mobile device. This fact is taken advantaged by cybercriminals, as they start targeting their malicious adverts against mobile users. The most sophisticated of malicious adverts in the mobile device is cryptocurrency miner, where a vulnerable version of the mobile browser displaying a seemingly innocent advert, but the browser’s flaw is already being taken for a ride, making the phone attempting to mine cryptocurrency instead.
With that it is really reasonable to block adverts in the mobile platform too. There are two categories of adblocking in the mobile platform:
- Browser adblocking
- Adblocking in apps
The former is no different from desktop counterpart, where the user can just use a browser that supports advert blocking extensions. All the user needs to do is to visit the browser’s extension store and download Adblock Plus, UBlock Origin or Ghostery. One such browser is Firefox mobile. Unlike other mobile browsers, the only difference between the desktop and mobile Firefox is the interface, the latter also supports installing add-ons, the same extensions available for desktop Firefox.
Adblocking in Apps is a whole different ball game, as Apps are usually made free because of advert support. However, advert blocking in Apps can be done in a rooted device. The host file mentioned above from mvps.org, for Android the host file is stored in /system/etc folder. This can also be done through adb, with the use of adb command:
- Download the adb installer from adbdriver.com.
- Extract the zip file to a folder
- Navigate to the folder where the files are extracted.
- Open Command Prompt with admin privileges. This can be done by searching for cmd.exe in the search box, rightclick Command Prompt > run as administrator.
- In the Command Prompt cd to the exact folder where the adb is installed.
Download the mvps.org advert blocking host file.
- Turn On Android’s USB Debugging feature.
- Connect the Android Device to the PC using a USB cable.
- Issue the command:
adb push c:\adb\hosts /system/etc
With c:\adb as the folder name where the adb files are stored. This command will upload the host file from the PC to the Android device.
- Reboot the Android device.
Of course, there will be a time that new advert domain names will be added to the hosts file. The process can be redone again, with the brand new hosts file uploaded to the mobile device like the steps provided above. The bottom line, it is the judgment call of the mobile user if he/she wishes to install an advert-blocking capability for his/her phone. The decision belongs to the user, not the manufacturer of the phone or even the browser developer. This right needs to be respected at all times, as the consumers vote through their wallets when it comes to what devices they want to purchase, and what devices they want to “own”.
If you’re interested in trying out a mobile adblocker yourself, there are several options available. One of the better adblockers on the market is AdLock for Android, which works without root and blocks all pop-ups, autoplay ads, banner ads, etc.
Julia Sowells960 Posts
Julia Sowells has been a technology and security professional. For a decade of experience in technology, she has worked on dozens of large-scale enterprise security projects, and even writing technical articles and has worked as a technical editor for Rural Press Magazine. She now lives and works in New York, where she maintains her own consulting firm with her role as security consultant while continuing to write for Hacker Combat in her limited spare time.