It’s the holidays—time for the delights and horrors of Christmas advertising. Even businesses that seldom do promotions feel forced to advertise and get caught up in the Christmas ad frenzy. But the onslaught doesn’t end when the last bell rings on Christmas. Advertisers persist in a relentless ad rush well into January. It’s as if they fear being the first to stop. And so, they all continue with the mad ad rush deep into the new year.
You may need a helping hand to avoid the usual clutch of super-cringe Christmas ads. For example, everyone’s talking about the Blackstone corporation imitating a Taylor Swift tour this year. It’s only a little better than KFC’s 2005 call center staff eating with their mouths full or Wrigley’s Dog Breath ad in 2003.
As you unbox your new phone or laptop and set up your favorite apps, you’re bombarded with pop-ups, banners, and autoplay videos. It’s almost impossible to avoid clicking on those maddening ads in the Play Store!
But a safe, fun browsing experience is about more than blocking annoying ads. The right ad blocker can also protect you from malware, hackers, and identity thieves. We have five practical ways to stop you from accidentally clicking on pop-up ads and help you stay safe online.
Why You Should End the Ad Invasion
Ads infest the internet. They’re on YouTube, social media platforms, shopping sites, and even our Google searches. But the problem with ads goes beyond mere annoyance. Ads also carry data privacy risks. They spy on your private habits and can be a gateway to security threats and poor device performance.
- Ads are intrusive. Who enjoys pop-ups during favorite videos or just when you’re zeroing in to buy the perfect outfit online?
- Data brokers use them to spy on you. Behind the scenes, tech companies collect, analyze, and sell our data to third-party advertisers. They log every click or interaction with those intrusive ads and then analyze this information to build detailed personal profiles of people.
- Free apps provide fuel for advertisers. Free software or smartphone apps in the Play Store have hidden costs. App developers make money from selling your personal information to marketing agencies. As a result, advertisers can bombard you with hyper-targeted ads that follow you across websites and apps.
- Ransomware and malware threats. Malicious actors often use ads to con you into clicking hard-to-resist special offers. The links can lead you to harmful sites or start downloading malware infections.
Five Ways to Block Ads
Our list of tips ensures varying levels of privacy and security.
Ultra-Light Blocking: Rein In Google Chrome
Google Chrome’s built-in ad blocker selectively blocks ads that don’t comply with the Better Ads Standards. This industry group tries to improve online advertising. Google may block a few over-the-top ads, but the company can still track everything you do on the internet—even in Google incognito mode—and will use the data in the future.
Good Blocking: Use a Privacy-Focused Browser
Privacy-focused browsers are purpose-built to enhance your privacy with built-in ad blockers. For example, Brave Browser is an excellent choice for privacy-conscious users. Its built-in ad-blocking feature blocks ads, scripts, trackers, and cookies. Additionally, Brave also offers browser fingerprinting protection.
You can also try the Mozilla Firefox Privacy Browser. It’s been around for years. It offers Enhanced Tracking Protection against ads, trackers, and malicious scripts. People also love the “containers” that keep social media platforms from sniffing at your ankles whenever you connect to the internet. You could also try the much newer DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for ad-free YouTube videos.
Rock-Solid Ad Blocking: VPN With Ad Blocker
Ad blockers focus primarily on preventing or screening out ads. However, a VPN with ad blocking will also encrypt your internet connection and mask your IP address. It’s a double layer of defense. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your device’s internet connection. That means it protects you while you use all your favorite apps, not just while you’re browsing.
For example, the NordVPN Threat Protection feature is a cybersecurity solution that also blocks ads. The NordVPN ad blocker stops ads and stops you from accidentally landing on malicious sites while hiding your IP.
Choose Wisely: Blocking Ads With Browser Extensions
Beware of false extensions that claim to block ads, but sneakily collect your data in the background to sell it to marketers! Use a reputable specialized browser extension, for example, uBlock Origin. It stops ads and trackers and is lightweight and efficient even on low-power devices. You can also use Privacy Badger by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) or the Ghostery extension to stop third-party tracking.
Choose Carefully: Ad-Blocking Apps on Mobile Devices
You can block many pop-up ads and notifications via your phone or tablet settings, but you may need extra protection for browsing. But beware of fake privacy apps. If you’re not using a VPN with an ad blocker, AdGuard is a popular choice for both Android and iOS users because it blocks social media buttons, comments, and floating ads on your favorite websites.
Don’t Let Those Ads Spoil Your Holiday Fun!
Some ad blockers focus on blocking specific types of ads. Others focus on removing intrusive ads or blocking trackers and preserving your privacy. The best solution is to add a security layer before you start looking for additional apps or browser extensions. First, encrypt your internet connections using a VPN. The next step is to use a privacy-preserving browser. And finally, you can add a reputable ad-blocking browser extension to obscure your identity even more.