No, I will not disable my ad blocker.

Anyone who uses an ad blocker has no doubt seen the “placeholder” images or text that replace where the advertisement would be on popular websites. These placeholders implore us to turn off our ad blockers to give the site vital revenue, to not starve the website owners of cash. Lately, there have been even more aggressive methods to ask us to turn blocking off – pop-up or interstitial notifications to shut the blocker off, or even full-page-blocking notifications that keep you from seeing anything if an ad blocker is on.

I do not, in principle, have an issue with these notifications. I think companies and individuals who support their sites with advertising have the right to ask us to turn off the tech that keeps them from getting paid and paying their bills. However, I must regretfully inform these sites that I will not be turning off my ad blocking software, and here is why:

Ad networks (the 3rd-party companies that serve up the ads found on most websites these days) have become nothing more than the latest vector for delivering malware of many forms. In the past, an attacker had to compromise the site itself through security holes or brute force in order to turn that site into an attack vector for infecting visitors with various nasty software. Ad networks have allowed attackers to do many multiple times the damage with a fraction of the effort.

Here’s how it works: The attacker buys ad space with a network that allows Javascript or other active-code ad serving. The technology generally allows advertisers to show rich-media ads (which are annoying and should be removed from the internet anyway, but I digress). Rich-media ads have video, audio, and other eye-catching stuff built-in, but require that the website displaying them allow for the scripts to be run. They also require that the browser allow the scripts to run, which ad blockers disable. For a legitimate advertiser and the website owner, this means better conversion rates (the rate at which viewers click on the ad to see the product/service being sold) and rich-media ads have become insanely popular for advertisers themselves; and a requirement for most ad networks to support.

An attacker can create an “advertisement” that has scripting which delivers the payload of their choice. This could be malware or spyware that the user must accept and run, other malware and spyware that requires no user interaction (limiting what it can attack, but making it much more likely to execute), or more recently crypto-currency mining scripts that chew up CPU cycles and can theoretically damage a computer though overheating it. Since the ad network has no way to tell that the malicious ad is any different from any other rich-media ad (because networks don’t bother to police their customers), the ad network serves up the bad ad to hundreds of websites and infects thousands of end-users.

In short, network advertising on websites has become the new way for attackers to deliver their malware.

This “malvertising” has become so prevalent that even giant sites like Showtime have been attacked via malware in ads posted on their sites. The ad networks do nearly nothing to stop the problem, and the site owners cannot stop it short of removing the ad networks’ code from their sites.

So, until such time as ad networks begin to properly police the ads they put up on network sites, or until such time as you – the site owner – remove that code and post ads you know to be non-malicious only; I’m not turning off the ad blocker. I’m sorry that this impacts you, truly I am. However, the situation has reached a point where no site that runs network ads is safe unless that code is blocked from ever running.

PS: I do indeed subscribe to websites that offer quality content without ads, either through Patreon or directly with the site itself. I know that this limits how many sites I can possibly support, but for those that offer great content and don’t attempt to infect my system with their lax code policies, I’m more than willing to put my money where my mouth is.

11 thoughts on “No, I will not disable my ad blocker.”

  1. How do I get rid of ads that ask to turn off adblocker? I am not turning my adblock off. I do not want this popup stuff asking me to turn off my adblocker. Help

    1. Unfortunately I do not know of any way to block those messages. It’s a trade-off, you have to deal with those messages so that you don’t have to deal with ads. More and more sites are, however, making those “please disable your ad blocker” messages disable-able as they are beginning to realize WHY people are using ad blockers these days. Those that do not allow me to dismiss them? They’re still out there, and I simply don’t visit them anymore. With few exceptions, you can find the information, news, or other stuff you’re looking for on a site that doesn’t force you to disable a critical security tool. The sites that do let me browse with my ad blocker on? I donate/patreon/subscribe to them whenever I’m able (physically and/or financially) to help encourage that trend.

  2. If web content publishers could advertise responsibly, they wouldn’t be losing revenue to ad blockers. But no, they were lazy and greedy and farmed out their advertising to ad networks that served users a bad web experience, the users blocked that noise, and now the lazy publishers are paying the price. I have no sympathy.

  3. I’m sorry, but I didn’t see all these advertisers rush to chip in for the purchase of my computer, my $80 a month fibre internet service or rent to house the pc and internet service in the first place – or anything else for that matter – so who or what gives them the right to whine, complain, sulk and then block access (and those sites that do block access, are never reliable sources of news anyway – they rely on fake clickbait titles just to suck people in because that’s all they’ve got), simply because I have zero interest in the junk they’re trying to flog?

    As for bloggers who ‘need the money to pay the bills’ – writing’s a luxury and a hobby, so get off your lazy arses, go forth and find gainful employment and write like everyone else has to do – in your spare time, after hours.

  4. I turn off my Ad blocker for nobody. What I DO do, is find the same article elsewhere and life goes on.

  5. Amen. My local news site (a FOX site) is ridiculous. I have counters on and on JUST the home page, my adblocker blocks over 300 ads and over 3100 trackers…., The New York Times, and Washington Post are the same….ON ONE PAGE…..they are crooks and cons all of them, wanting to steal your browsing activity to force more ads to arrive while you are browsing every day. I also turn off my adblock for no one, I don’t farking shop online so whatever they are trying to get me to impulse buy is a waste of their effort as it is.

  6. Best kept secret in town. All that analytics and many sites still haven’t figured out that too many ads/pop ups, instant videos give the web site bad street cred. Distraction. Then avoidance. We avoid you and go elsewhere to better engineered sites. They have a couple of ads AND good content.

  7. I also absolutely REFUSE to disable my adblocker, and sites that ask it can FUCK OFF. I dont care about their financial situation, I despise ads and will not tolerate them.

  8. I don’t care if you need revenue. It’s not my fucking problem. I will NEVER disable my adblock. You want people to stop using adblockers? STOP SERVING MALWARE FIRST.

  9. ill never disable my adblock. advertisement, in principle, is the dishonest application of psychological and sociological information to manipulate people into making purchases. in other words: advertising, as a whole, is a confidence scam. also called a “con.”

    professional marketers, are then, like politicians, “con artists” or “confidence artists” whose careers rely on their ability to confound us into being confident in them or their products.

    if you think advertising is your friend, youve been lied to. if you think advertising is a “good way to connect people with products” youve been lied to.

    i studied marketing and media studies in college. it is NOT a simple way to connect people with products. it’s an insidious field that has no concern for ethics or morality, no interest in progressing society.

    advertising is a cancer and not one i am interested in exposing myself to deliberately.

  10. I understand why information only sites will ask me to disable my ad-blocker if ads are their source of revenue. But as I still will not be answering those ads it is pretty pointless … unless they get paid simply for displaying them rather than when they get clicked on.

    I view ads being forced on me as equivalent to an old fashioned door-t-door salesman putting his foot in the door. And that ploy did not work either. It just resulted in a salesman with a sore foot.

    What I really do not understand is commercial sites that I want to buy.from ask me to disable my ad blocker before letting me in. Result … a lost sale. I’ll just buy from one of your competitors tha does not force me to accept ads.

    As an aside, if you require me to make an account in order to buy from you I will also go to one of your more customer freindly competitors.

    Whatever your reasons, I am not turning off my ad-blocker for anyone.

    And, while we re at it. Please stop forcing me to use two factor authentication. I do not want to have to have a smartphone in order to use on-line services. Is this part of some grand plan to force us all to carry smartphones so that we can be tracked and spied on 24/7? For me the possibility, on most web sites, of losing access if I cannot receive an access code is much more likely to be a problme for me than someone hacking my account.

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