Best Browser Extensions to Block Ads

All publishers need to run ads to keep the lights on. Nothing in this world comes for free and it applies to websites on internet as well. Most of the websites earn money by showing advertisements to the end user. For some, it is the only source of income to keep the website up and running. But sometimes it can go too far. Intrusive and irrelevant ads, irritating users struggling to focus on the things they were supposed to be doing in the first place. Then there is also the question of privacy. Some sites are very intrusive and tend to insert ads in every we page. They term it as cost of their services. Their is also another downside to this. Opera CTO Bruce Lawson recently quoted a report to say that over 50 percent of all Internet traffic is just ads. That means that half of the limited FUP of users is probably wasted on advertisements. This also indirectly means that we pages will load significantly faster if ads are blocked and not allowed to load in the first place.

If you want to take control of this and also save bandwidth then you’ve probably thought about installing an ad-blocker. If you’re wondering about how to block ads on the Internet, the best option is to just install an ad-blocker on your browser. For the sake of this blog, I will be talking about ad-blockers for Google Chrome since it is the one I currently use as primary. The options and steps are pretty simple and pretty similar even for other browsers such as Safari, Firefox or Opera.

Here are the ad block extensions for Chrome that I liked, and why I liked them.

1. AdBlock Plus

One of the best known ad blockers on the market is AdBlock Plus or ABP. It’s available on most browsers and has its own Android app as well. It is an install-and-forget app extension. ABP does allow some ads through – the advertisers have to meet some requirements to be ‘non-intrusive’ but it can be changed this in the settings. ABP also blocks video ads in YouTube, and all noisy ads, and it can be set it to block tracking, malware, and social media buttons.

abp before after abplus

 

2. AdBlock

Both AdBlock, and then AdBlock Plus, came up as two separate adblockers for Firefox. When Chrome came along, AdBlock was launched for Chrome by another developer, before the AdBlock Plus team started to support the browser. And so, despite not being connected, the two most popular ad blockers ended up with similar names. AdBlock works a lot like AdBlock plus. Install, leave the defaults on and just get browsing. With AdBlock, malware protection is on from the start. It can also be disabled on individual pages, not just sites, and all the resources it is blocking is also visible in real time to the user. It also allows to whitelist specific sites.

adblock Adblock

 

3. Ghostery

Perhaps the most comprehensive tracker blocker available, Ghostery has a slightly involved setup process. Once it is added in the browser, a setup page will open and it will list all the different types of trackers that it can watch out for, and giving the option of choosing which ones to block specifically. Most users will typically opt to block all, but do note that this can also disrupt some site functionality, such as chat assistance on sites, or comments sections. Ghostery is extremely popular, not just for the blocking, but also the analytics it does – at any time, information such as how many trackers are present on the site and info on what these trackers actually do.

ghostery tracker data ghostery

 

4. Privacy Badger

Created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit digital rights group based in the US, Privacy Badger isn’t exactly an ad-blocker. Instead, it focuses on disallowing any visible or invisible third party scripts that can track you over the Internet. As it happens, most of these trackers are used for advertisements. This means that Privacy Badger does not block ads that are not otherwise harmful or tracking you. As a result, some ads will still show up. But at least it lets users know that what companies are spying on them through ads.

privacy badger badger

 

5. uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin has received praise from technology websites, and is reported to be much less memory-intensive than other extensions with similar functionality. uBlock Origin’s stated purpose is to give users the means to enforce their own (content-filtering) choices. It can also read and create filters from hosts files. Also, be aware that selecting some of these extra lists may lead to higher likelihood of web site breakage — especially those lists which are normally used as hosts file.

2016-11-3011-54-43

 

6. uBlock Origin
uBlock Origin has received praise from technology websites, and is reported to be much less memory-intensive than other extensions with similar functionality. uBlock Origin’s stated purpose is to give users the means to enforce their own (content-filtering) choices. It can also read and create filters from hosts files. Also, be aware that selecting some of these extra lists may lead to higher likelihood of web site breakage — especially those lists which are normally used as hosts file.

2016-11-3011-54-43

 

Personally, I use last three on chrome browser. I have tried all of them and felt that last three are the most efficient at both blocking ads as well as on the system resources. There are some rare occasions where the trio breaks the website but that’s the price I pay for uncluttered browsing experience. And I am happy with it. Here is the screenshot at the time of writing this blog where trio blocks more than 60 ads and other unnecessary stuff even from WordPress site itself!!!

2017-04-25 16_25_54-Edit Post ‹ Tech Overloaded — WordPress.com

 

Pass it on and let others know too.  Thanks.

 

 

Beware of this new phishing attack

A Chinese information security researcher has reported about an “almost impossible to detect” phishing attack that can be used to trick even the most careful users on the Internet.

He warned, hackers can use a known vulnerability in the Chrome, Firefox and Opera web browsers to display their fake domain names as the websites of legitimate services, like Apple, Google, or Amazon to steal login or financial credentials and other sensitive information from users.

What is the best defence against phishing attack? Generally, checking the address bar after the page has loaded and if it is being served over a valid HTTPS connection. Right?

Okay, then before going to the in-depth details, first have a look at this demo web page (note: you may experience downtime due to high traffic on demo server), set up by Chinese security researcher Xudong Zheng, who discovered the attack.

It becomes impossible to identify the site as fraudulent without carefully inspecting the site’s URL or SSL certificate.” Xudong Zheng said in a blog post.

If your web browser is displaying “apple.com” in the address bar secured with SSL, but the content on the page is coming from another server (as shown in the above picture), then your browser is vulnerable to the homograph attack.

There is another proof-of-concept website created by security experts from Wordfence to demonstrate this browsers’ vulnerability. It spoof “epic.com” domain.

Homograph attack has been known since 2001, but browser vendors have struggled to fix the problem. It’s a kind of spoofing attack where a website address looks legitimate but is not because a character or characters have been replaced deceptively with Unicode characters.

Many Unicode characters, which represents alphabets like Greek, Cyrillic, and Armenian in internationalized domain names, look the same as Latin letters to the casual eye but are treated differently by computers with the completely different web address.

For example, Cyrillic “а” (U+0430) and Latin “a” (U+0041) both are treated different by browsers but are displayed “a” in the browser address.

Punycode Phishing Attacks

unicode-phishing-attack

By default, many web browsers use ‘Punycode’ encoding to represent unicode characters in the URL to defend against Homograph phishing attacks. Punycode is a special encoding used by the web browser to convert unicode characters to the limited character set of ASCII (A-Z, 0-9), supported by International Domain Names (IDNs) system.

For example, the Chinese domain “短.co” is represented in Punycode as “xn--s7y.co“.

According to Zheng, the loophole relies on the fact that if someone chooses all characters for a domain name from a single foreign language character set, resembling exactly same as the targeted domain, then browsers will render it in the same language, instead of Punycode format.

This loophole allowed the researcher to register a domain name xn--80ak6aa92e.com and bypass protection, which appears as “apple.com” by all vulnerable web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, though Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, Brave, and Vivaldi are not vulnerable.Here, xn-- prefix is known as an ‘ASCII compatible encoding’ prefix, which indicates web browser that the domain uses ‘punycode’ encoding to represent Unicode characters, and Because Zheng uses the Cyrillic “а” (U+0430) rather than the ASCII “a” (U+0041), the defence approach implemented by web browser fails.

Zheng has reported this issue to the affected browser vendors, including Google and Mozilla in January.

Punycode Phishing Attacks
Fake Page (top) and Original Apple.com (bottom), but exactly same URL

While Mozilla is currently still discussing a fix, Google has already patched the vulnerability in its experimental Chrome Canary 59 and will come up with a permanent fix with the release of Chrome Stable 58, set to be launched later this month.

Meanwhile, millions of Internet users who are at risk of this sophisticated hard-to-detect phishing attack are recommended to disable Punycode support in their web browsers in order to temporarily mitigate this attack and identify such phishing domains.

How to Prevent Against Homograph Phishing Attacks

Firefox users can follow below-mentioned steps to manually apply temporarily mitigation:

  1. Type about:config in address bar and press enter.
  2. Type Punycode in the search bar.
  3. Browser settings will show parameter titled: network.IDN_show_punycode, double-click or right-click and select Toggle to change the value from false to True.

Unfortunately, there is no similar setting available in Chrome or Opera to disable Punycode URL conversions manually, so Chrome users have to wait for next few weeks to get patched Stable 58 release.

Although, there are some third-party Chrome extensions/add-ons available on App Store that users can install to get alerts every time they came across any website with Unicode characters in the domain.

Meanwhile, one of the best ways to protect yourself from homograph attacks is to use a good password manager that comes with browser extensions, which automatically enter in your login credentials for the actual domains to which they are linked.

So, whenever you came across any domain which looks like legitimate “apple.com” or “amazon.com” but actually is not, your password manager software will detect it and will not automatically authenticate you to that phishing site.

Moreover, Internet users are always advised to manually type website URLs in the address bar for important sites like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo or banking websites, instead of clicking any link mentioned on some website or email, to prevent against such attacks.

A simple way to limit the damage from bugs such as this is to always use a password manager. In general, users must be very careful and pay attention to the URL when entering personal information. Until this is fixed, concerned users should manually type the URL as stated above or navigate to sites via a reputed search engine when in doubt. This is a serious vulnerability because it can even fool those who are extremely mindful of phishing.
Pass this post on and let others know about this too.  It may save someone from falling prey unknowingly to an hacker.
Content for this blog post was sourced from this post and this is researcher’s original blog post.

Browser setting to turn off right now

Modern day browser’s have a very useful feature in-built which is the auto-fill. It can assist a user by automatically filling in forms and other important fields without user needing to manually enter the data each time. It is a one time process thereby after which browser can pre-fill the stored user data onto the form each time user visits a site requiring a form fill-up, sign-up process or finishing online purchases by entering credit card and other crucial details.

It is a very useful feature indeed but with a very serious security problem. As demonstrated by a Finnish developer Viljami Kuosmanen, users can easily fall into hacker’s trap if they use autocomplete feature on unknown websites. Scammers have found a sneaky way to retrieve the stored information using autocomplete feature.

Scammers could simply add additional “hidden” boxes to the page, and trick people into giving away more info than they intended to. Users think they’re just entering their name and email address, but “hidden” text boxes are automatically filled in with more sensitive data like address, phone number, and credit card number.

Below is the demonstration given by Viljami as a proof of concept –

Affected browsers include big shots like Chrome, Safari, and Opera, as well as extensions like the password manager/form filler LastPass, which is perhaps an even more obvious target. So, if you’re currently using any of these, it’d be wise to head to your Preference menu and temporarily disable the auto-fill feature until a security patch is pushed out. To deactivate the feature in Chrome, go to Settings, Advanced Settings, and uncheck the boxes beneath Passwords and Forms. Stay safe folks.

Here is the image after successfully retrieving the full user info taken from the above –

browser-settings

 

 

Pass this post on and let others know about this too.  It may save someone from falling prey unknowingly to an hacker.