Consumer Security: Malware Ads on Forbes

The annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list highlights a select few in various industries from music to healthcare- these individuals are up-and-coming influentials under the age of 30. Naturally, the 30 Under 30 franchise receives much attention and its pages garner hundreds of thousands of online views.

Many consumers are just becoming aware of how vulnerable their privacy is online, progressively more so with coverage of recent breaches at companies and even government organizations like Apple, the IRS, and Ashley Madison. It’s natural that this year’s 30 Under 30 list include a few names in security. The article mentions:

Ryan Ozonian, 27, created encrypted messaging app CyberDust that he says is safer than SnapChat. Javier Agüera Reneses, 23, created the encrypted smartphone BlackPhone (in partnership with security firm Silent Circle) and now serves as Silent Circle’s chief scientist. Reyad Allie, 26, is Uber’s Global Intelligence Analyst and keeps the $50 billion car service’s driver and user data safe.

 

This nod to advancement in data security only makes it more surprising that Forbes served malware to visitors who wished to view the article and disabled their Adblocker software.

 

Producing quality content accrues a cost, and like other publishers, Forbes pays for this through serving ads or a subscription model. Those who wish to view content without a subscription are asked to disable their Adblocker software for an “ad-light” experience. Forbes claimed this strategy helps monetize millions of impressions that would have otherwise been blocked.

The choice to disable the software is in the hands of consumers, and Forbes’ strategy seemed like a bona fide solution meant to help generate revenue. Forbes has also disabled the poisoned ads since becoming aware of the problem. However, there is a glaring problem with the system when a host cannot monitor exactly what is being served to its visitors. Even Adblocker does not protect users from all malware.

Forbes (and lesser known sites) sometimes have little control over (or knowledge of) what ads are being served to visitors. Until this is resolved, the responsibility for keeping information safe online ultimately falls on the consumer. Stay tuned for more in the future on how you can protect your data.

Eliminating Mobile Ads with Adblock Browser and What it Means for Advertisers

Pop-up ads can be irritating on desktop, but they can be absolutely maddening on the limited screen real-estate of mobile devices. Mobile advertisers have been slow to recognize how some ads distract and detract from most visitors’ experience, even eliciting negative reactions; but there may still be hope. Just a couple months ago, Google eliminated “door slam” ads for mobile after tests confirmed that subjects responded more positively to subtler banner ads.

Google Webcast

 

While advertisers seek to learn about mobile users in attempts to improve mobile ads, it may be too late to reach some. A more extreme response to aggressive mobile advertising is blocking ads altogether. Adblock has launched their own free mobile browser for iOS and Android, giving mobile users the ability to browse the internet from their phones and tablets ad-free.

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The default setting on the app is to block all ads on the browser. If you are feeling generous, you can whitelist sites that you visit regularly to continue viewing related offers. Since ads require data use and can cause pages to load slower, Adblocker claims that using their browser can conserve battery life by up to 20% and prevent unnecessary data usage. An added bonus to it all is the app’s ability to protect mobile devices from malware.

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The ad-filtering browser is not a revolutionary technological development; in fact, ad blocking extensions for Android have been around for years, and the next version of iOS 9 will also follow suit with content blocker extensions for the first time. However, the creation of the browser in reaction to demand for the service signals to an ongoing shift in modern media. In the past, consumers had no other option but to watch content that they were spoon-fed, but today they are becoming highly selective in what they choose to see.

There are more options for entertainment than ever before thanks to the internet. This, paired with an increasing freedom for consumers to select what they view, where they view it, and how (via YouTube, subscription services like Netflix, catch-up subscription TV with Hulu, apps and shows on Apple TV, and many more); makes it harder and harder for content providers (and advertisers) to reach their audiences.

It will be interesting to see how advertisers adapt to the changing media landscape. Hopefully more will see it as an opportunity to craft messaging with out-of-the-box ideas and reach audiences with more useful promoted content. After all, the best ads are those that are unrecognizable as such.

Until advertisers figure out a better way to reach mobile users without annoying them, there is now Adblock Browser and the option to opt out.