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Keep yourself safe online, with this short page of tips for keeping toxic traffic at bay.

 

It's all about protection... from internet infection.


Let's face it, there's some toxic/dangerous content being distributed onto our computers from various websites and none more so than the toxic advertising that is being indiscriminately dumped onto our screens. Too many websites hide behind the "We're not responsible for what third parties show on our pages" and to that I say "No but I can be".

If your website doesn't give a crap about the users using your site, their safety, their privacy, or their security... then your site needs depriving of all third-party income earned from the crap you don't care about.

If you run a website that only exists because modders spend endless hours of their time creating content and then uploading it to your site, generating traffic and then have the audacity to post a banner that says:

Then quite frankly, you're a parasitic hypocrite. The site only exists, because people give you content FOR FREE and you make money from the advertising off that FREE content.

If there were no ads, the site would exist... if there was no FREELY GIVEN content, it wouldn't... it really is that simple. Let me guess, the presumed response is "Well we can't provide the computers, the bandwidth, the blah... blah... blah for free", yet you can still expect the modders to provide their contribution for free... yeah right. Modder's time > Your money.

So what actually prompted this page, is the latest parasitic *trend* of dumping video on the user's screen. I'm sorry but f*ck you and your autoplaying, intrusive video... not on my screen you don't. So if you have that problem, how do you stop it. Well there are two options, one that sites *think* they can combat (usually through content blackmail) and one they can't do a damned thing about.

So let's look at option 1:

The Ad-Blocker.

Here's an image of one particular site's connection list from uBlock Origin. The image on the left, is what appears in that list with only a couple of things enabled. Pink blocks = Blocked, Grey blocks = Enabled. I have hidden the site domain as the list is already embarassing enough, without their domain being shown as well. But you know the sites I visit, it's not like there are many options it could be.

Now based on what you see with uBlock enabled, things don't seem too bad... right? But when I turn it off, look at how that list more than triples in size. The ones marked in Red are known to have advertising connections, some are also know to have distributed PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programmes), which then needs particular software to remove it, because it doesn't add itself in a nice friendly way, it tries to get in through the back-door. Search for "adnxs" and the second link you see (on Bing) is a "How to remove..." article, for something that comes from adnxs. That's how dangerous these distribution networks are.

They can be compromised and you have ZERO protection from the website that uses them, because "We're not responsible for third-party blah... blah... blah..."... ZERO protection for you and ZERO accountability for them. I suggest you make a mental note of that, in BOLD.

Ad-Blocker used to be the goto choice, until they started taking backhanders to let people through. The best bet now is uBlock Origin, as it's open source and has no affiliations with anyone. It supports most of the more common browsers, just make sure that once you have installed it, you go into the dashboard and choose some Filter Lists to use. There is ad-blocking, tracking protection, social network protection, privacy protection... a whole host of options that you can use.

So ad-blockers are a good choice, until you get met with this:

This site lets you continue with your ad-blocker but there are some that just won't let you in at all. If you're lucky, someone will have added the site to the anti-adblocker list and you can carry on but the detection software is getting more complex and the blocking is more frequent. So what happens then, do you have to turn it off and put up with a page full of potentially malicious ads? Well no, because that's where Option 2 comes into its own, the HOSTS file.

The HOSTS File.

The HOSTS file is a simple text file, hidden away in a rarely visited sub-folder of the Windows main directory. The full location is Windows\System32\drivers\etc

The file is a System file and so can't be edited in its default location. To edit it, you need to drag it to your desktop, make any changes and then drag it back. So what does this file do? Quite simply, it allows you to redirect traffic being sent to a particular server (or domain), to another location. The most common location to redirect traffic to, is 127.0.0.1 (or 0.0.0.0), which is in fact the machine you're sat at reading this. So basically, any requests for advertising content, get sent into oblivion... they never get beyond your PC.

Is it complicated to use?

No, far from it, it's incredibly simple. To block a single server (or domain) you need a line like this:

0.0.0.0 ads.this_nasty_server.com

The first 4 digits are the IP address of where you want the traffic to go, the second part is the domain you want to redirect. So remember that adnxs name from previously? This is the collection of entries in my HOSTS file for them. Note: I am using an image, so that the addresses can't be directly linked to my site in any way.

Notice how many variants there are, to try and ensure their ad-traffic gets through. This is a good indication of the level these parasites will go to, to bypass any kind of protection you put in place. You tell me... software that deliberately tries to bypass your protection, does that really sound legit to you? Or does it sound like the behaviour of a virus or malware? If any site tries to make any connection to those listed domains, it all gets rerouted to 0.0.0.0 If a site can't make a request to the ad-server, the ad-server can't respond with potentially malicious ads.

What that means, is that even when my ad-blocker is turned off, the only ad traffic that goes anywhere, is that being sent to new servers not in my HOSTS file. I use one that was 99.9% built online by someone else and the address to get that is here: http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm

The HOSTS file on that site is typically right up to date, the latest one is from May 2019. I have donated to this site in the past, because any PC I set up has that HOSTS file installed on it immediately.

The file I am currently using is 13,224 lines long... that should give you an indication of how big this problem is. It should also tell you that no traffic gets to the more commonly used parasite-distribution networks, like those from G**gle. If you're wondering, it also blocks tracking traffic as well, everyone should have a fully populated HOSTS file on their system. I am actually trying to encourage router manufacturers to support them, as Windows 10 is already known to use tricks to bypass HOSTS file entries for its own telemetry. If it was in the router, nothing could bypass it.

To Site Owners:
As far as I am concerned, if I donate my time to contribute helpful content, or my creations to your site, you don't get to serve me ads. If you use third-party ad-distribution networks, you don't get to serve me ads. If you run a site that exists solely because users create FREE content for your site... you don't get to serve me ads. If you think you can get away with showing videos on my screen that I didn't ask for, you definitely don't get to serve me ads.

If you want to serve me ads from your site, it's very simple... serve static, non-intrusive, self-hosted ads, from YOUR domain and they will bypass every type of blocking I use. If you can't get advertisers to support that distribution model, that's YOUR problem, not mine. The answer is already there, you're just choosing not to use it... tough shit I say, use it or lose it.

See what you parasite-hosters don't realise, is that there is a world full of people who will happily provide content for free, that covers pretty much everything. If you run a site that costs YOU money, that's YOUR choice, nobody forced you to start that site. If you suddenly decide you don't want to do that anymore, then either remove the site, or charge an entry fee. Pretty sure that within a very short time of you starting to charge an entry-fee, your site will be gone anyway, because you're probably not providing something that's worth what you think it's worth.

To Users:
Protect your privacy, protect your data but most of all, protect your computer... use the tools that are available and take control.