Pesky pop-up ads are an annoyance everyone who searches the internet faces at some point. To avoid these irritating and often unwanted messages, users turn to ad-blockers for help; however, a growing number of websites are forcing visitors to turn off their ad-blockers to gain access to the site’s content. While you may think that doing so would be harmless on a trusted site, think twice, weigh the risks and be careful. While a site may control its own content, it doesn’t necessarily control or police its advertisers’ content.
Consider an issue that arose with the Forbes website. Upon visiting Forbes’ site to read its “30 Under 30” list, a security expert had to disable his ad-blocker to view the article. Given the reputation of the Forbes brand, one might not hesitate to turn off such a blocker, and this expert did just that. However, not only did doing so allow him to read the article, it also infected his computer with malware that could impair its operation, and steal private data such as banking information and passwords.
While computer threats are an unfortunate reality, there are several ways to mitigate your risk. Security software is a users’ most important defensive tool, but you must keep that software updated. Adjust your web browser’s security settings to minimize unwelcome intrusions. Finally, trust your instincts and be careful what you click.
Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob Brewer, Tony McFarland, Elizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.