At the beginning of 2021 CISA made an important statement [PDF] which many internet users consider so long-awaited: federal and public agencies, along with their expansion in the World Web should as well implement and standardize the usage of ad-blocking software.
Public opinion is agreeing on the point that nowadays internet security is just as vital as personal and social, so the discussion is totally on point. Does it mean that the threat of malware and harmful ads is finally recognized on the government level? What can we personally do to secure our presence online?
CISA suggested considering ad blockers
CISA, The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, appeared in 2018 and was aimed to maintain cyber security on the government level and fight against private and public hackers. No longer than in January this year it became clear that CISA fully acknowledges the harmful impact of ads and pop-ups and urges private and state companies to consider ad blockers as inevitable helpers against malware espicially malvertising.
Internet users met this with great positivity and claimed that this should have been aired long ago as part of basic network security that we would expect to be in place. This is a very important topic, because in reality, many companies still see adware blockers as unauthorized (read: dangerous) software and rarely risk letting workers install extensions rather than to run software in basic configuration.
Luckly, we are on the right track now, but before changes come and we get to the point when a device comes along with not only OS and social networks pre-installed, but also with a trusted ad blocker, there are other things anyone can do to increase security and defend home browsing.
Manage browser cookies
The information in browser cookies can be very different. For example, such files often store statistics of visits, login, and password from sites or services, individual user settings (region, design, etc.). The purpose of cookies is quite clear, with them we do not need to constantly enter registration data on sites that we regularly visit, which reduces the load on the server and increases the speed of opening pages.
Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to disable the option of collecting cookies or completely erase all traces of activity on a particular resource. For instance, if your Google Chrome keeps opening new tabs almost uncontrollably — sometimes it is not malware or virus in your system, but a cookie overload that requires smart management. The steps are easy to replicate in all popular browsers:
- To prevent sites from collecting and storing information, go to “Settings” and click on “Additional”.
- In the “Privacy and Security” section, select “Site Settings” and then “Cookies”.
- Disable “Allow sites to save and read files.” Done!
A good practice is to activate the option to block third-party cookies or set individual sites from which data will not be collected, this will greatly increase your safety.
Use antivirus program
A simple click on a link can redirect you to a phishing site or even launch a download of a malicious file to your PC. Moreover, such links can often be found on large sites that do not have time to moderate user posts.
Phishing sites and viruses are the scourge of modern Internet user. Research shows that almost every fourth page is a phishing site. And new sites appear every day. As with extensions, be vigilant and careful.
Special antivirus utilities and browser extensions can ensure that the web pages to which the links lead are harmless or you can use VirusTotal to scan for malicious files and links.
Additionally, you can check the safety of the link on special sites such as Scanurl and Phishtank. A tool for checking sites from Google called “Safe Browsing” is quite helpful as well. You can use it to find out about the presence of harmful content and check the timing of the last update.
Remember as a rule not to follow links to sites that require you to enter personal information, don’t fall for provocations of scammers. For your serenity online, get yourself proper antivirus and use a powerful browser extension like AdLock. Together those tools will not only block pop-up ads but also protect against data leaks and detect if malware got inside your PC.
Check browser extensions
Browser extensions are harmless in general and sometimes irreplaceable, but it’s important to stay vigilant, especially when it comes to accessing your data. Before installation, the browser will show you what information and functions the extension wants to access. Be sure to read the list and untick the box for unwanted tracking.
Keep in mind, having gained access to your data on all websites, the extension can block ads or, conversely, add extra banners. Pop-up ads are the most harmless things you can encounter and it is much worse if malware can get your data and passwords. It’s hard to name any reliable protection in this case, you just have to double-check what you install. Some other advice on extensions:
- Install extensions only from the official browser page and, when possible, from official developers;
- Pay attention to the number of users that installed the extension and the reviews;
- If an extension you already had installed is requesting access to new data, think twice and read through, as it may have been sold or hacked.
Delete saved passwords in your browser
Browsers’ autocomplete feature is a potential privacy as well as a security risk, and while it might seem convenient given that you enter pretty much the same information across different websites, you might want to reconsider the risk you are exposed to using the feature.
Undoubtedly, it’s very handy, but it also has its drawbacks. For example, your work computer can be accessed by colleagues, and your laptop can be stolen. Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy pulled a research that revealed how password managers fail to protect user data and in fact give it away to online advertising and data tracking firms.
Let’s not forget about the dangers posed by phishing sites. In the latter case, it will not be difficult for thieves to take possession of accounts, bank data and other information. If you want to play it safe, it’s better to turn off autocomplete, delete all saved passwords and use unique ones on new sites you register.
All in all, it is clear now that adblockers are not a secret weapon from the hackers’ arsenal. The leading national agencies like CISA recommended ad blockers as a basic cybersecurity tool for everyone — everyone who wants to feel secure online and browse limitlessly.
A combination of AdLock and smarter device management, including regular antivirus checks and reducing saved browser data, will go a long way. AdLock is a comprehensive solution with the full cybersecurity protection you may require, keeping you safe from phishing pages, password thieves, and annoying pop-ups simultaneously and effortlessly.