Smartphone Security: Apple Discovers, and Eliminates, Ad Blockers That Posed Security Threat
Whether we like it or not, advertising is what the Internet runs on. From search engines to dating sites, newspapers to gaming blogs, ad revenue is one of the biggest ways that websites make money so they can keep producing content for their viewers. However, ads are also inconveniences that a number of users simply don’t want to deal with. In other words, they want access to videos and articles, but they don’t want to have all the ads that creators use to fund their efforts cluttering up the page.
Whether or not blocking ads is harmful to content creators is a debate for another day, though. Because, as Apple found out, using the wrong program to block ads can be harmful to the user.
Smartphone Security: Apple Removes Ad-Blockers From Its Store
According to Information Week, Apple discovered that several programs being sold through its store that did more than just block unwanted ads. What they did, in addition to blocking ads, was set up root certificates in the devices they were installed in. The result was that the ad blocker could see all traffic on the device, including traffic that would normally be encrypted. It also posed a huge security risk for devices that used these particular programs in order to keep ads off the screen.
While Apple hasn’t called out companies specifically regarding whose programs were pulled off the digital shelves, it has stated that it’s working with the creators to eliminate security risks in order to make the products more acceptable. Additionally, certain companies are coming forward to let their users know they were on the recently pulled list. Been Choice, which claims to be one of the most powerful ad-blocking options available today, has told its users that it’s working with Apple to make its programs available once again.
Are Ads Really Worth The Trouble?
In the past the decision was simple, because ad blocking programs were simple. You download the program, and you don’t have to deal with unwanted ads anymore. Ads have grown more difficult to block, though, and ad blocking programs are now ubiquitous. Unfortunately, as this news story shows, choosing the wrong ad blocker can result in serious security compromises which could lead to your device being left open, and even your personal information making it into hands it shouldn’t be in as a result of privacy protection failures.
The problem is that, for many users, that may still be considered an acceptable trade-off.
Again, to be clear, advertising is somewhere between white noise, and an annoyance. While no one likes surprise pop-up ads, or commercials that talk when you’re trying to read a news article, advertisements don’t steal your credit card information. Ads don’t spy on your bank transactions, and no matter how irritating they may be, they don’t snoop on your online life. However, for many users (particularly for users who aren’t tech savvy), it’s an issue of “is” verses “might”.
Apple has told users that certain ad blocking applications pose a security risk, and that they could result in serious complications on their devices. However, those programs could also lie dormant, doing no real damage if someone keeps his or her phone or mobile device for unimportant tasks. It might be a problem, at some point. Ads, on the other hand, are a problem for them now. Ads are immediate, and removing them is the primary goal for many people. Unfortunately, that kind of short-term tech planning leads to compromised devices a lot more often than it doesn’t.
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