Are adblockers in your toolbox?

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One of the highlights of the iOS 9 release last week was the debut of adblocking on mobile Safari.  Within a few hours of the release, ad blockers were the most popular apps in the store.  This is not a surprise, considering the popularity of ad blockers among Internet users.  The use of ad blocking software continues to increase worldwide.  The numbers vary across studies, but a recent study (pdf) included these key findings:

  • Globally, the number of people using ad blocking software grew by 41% year over year.
  • 16% of the US online population blocked ads during Q2 2015.
  • Ad block usage in the United States grew 48% during the past year
  • Ad block usage in Europe grew by 35% during the past year

According to a similar study (pdf), only 33% of Internet users would like to block all ads.  The remainder have expressed some willingness to view text and still image ads.  Respondents also expressed several different reasons for using ad blockers:

 

 

The estimated loss of global revenue (pdf) due to blocked advertising during 2015 was $21.8B.

So far, ad blocking software has been used primarily by individual consumers, but that's likely to change soon.  The New Media Lab at Simon Fraser University just published a research paper (pdf) concluding that enterprise use of ad blockers lowered system-wide data usage by 25%.  That's a significant savings in network related costs.  Adblock Plus is now supporting enterprise deployments, which can add another layer of defense to the system.  These endpoint installs can be particularly helpful with mobile users who do not always operate inside the perimeter of protection.

Not everyone agrees on the usefulness of an endpoint level ad blocker in the enterprise.  Here's a Spiceworks discussion on why using an ad blocker can be helpful, and here's an article that includes some good logic against it.   Additionally, some publishers will block users that have an ad blocking technology, which means your network users might not be able to see the content they need until they get an IT response on that incident.

Regardless of your approach to ad blockers, your users have to be educated on the damage that can be done by malicious ads.  Just like phishing emails and executables, these ads can lead to virus and malware infections, stolen credentials, and other types of attacks.  Users should understand these risks and know how to avoid them.

 

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