A Quick Lesson In Mobile Device Ad blocking

A Quick Lesson In Mobile Device Ad blocking

Ad-blocking is a gray-area when it comes to ethical use of the Internet and navigating “free” content of public websites. It basically helps make the web less profitable for websites that depend heavily on ad revenue for keeping the lights on. But, the biggest argument for its use is the propensity of ads for hosting malicious javascripts, hosting malware, cryptomine the browser and other covert malicious activities. Adblocking on the desktop is very mature, from the use of hosts files containing known advert domain names, like the one offered for free by mvps.org to the use of browser ad blocking extensions for Firefox and Chromium-based browsers.

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”.

Also, Read:

How Corporations Efficiently Manage Mobile Devices?

Threat to Mobile Device called Dark Caracal Malware

How Protect Your Android Device From The Mobile Banking Trojan

First 5 Things To Do After Activating A New Android Device

Julia Sowells946 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.

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