Will a mobile ad blocker stop government spyware?

Ad blocker - Mobile Device - Question Mark

Though the main goal is typically to stop unwanted tracking and advertising, it may help in other ways

Ad blockers are commonplace and offer a simple way for mobile device users to be able to cut down on the number advertisements they are required to view, and on much of the tracking associated with those practices.

That said, the technology could also help to filter out other unwanted activities on a device

Interestingly, ad blockers may also be providing device users with an additional layer of defense against spyware and how makers of this type of software are incorporating it into online ads to provide larger organizations and governments with new ways to collect data and conduct public surveillance.

Ad blocker - Spyware - Data Collection

According to a recent Tech Crunch report, spyware producers are able to locate and quietly infect certain targeted devices and/or users through the use of banner ads.  

Intellexa, a company based in Europe, is among the startups that has developed an ad-based spyware infection system called Predator.  That spyware is able to provide real-time access to the entire contents of a target’s device.

Back in 2022, Intellexa had already come up with its Aladdin proof-of-concept system that made it possible to use online advertisements to plant spyware into a phone.  The demo documentation for the Aladdin system included technical explanations of the way a device is infected with the spyware, as well as examples of malicious advertisements.  This functioned by “seemingly targeting graphic designers and activists with job offers, through which the spyware will be introduced to their device,” said the report, citing the Israeli Haaretz publication. Whether that spyware was fully developed or sold to government customers was not disclosed.

Ad blockers can help individuals to protect themselves against infection

Intellexa is hardly the only player out there in that category. Instanet, out of Israel, also develops this type of software, as do many others.

Conventional online advertising is used by website owners and other advertisers to spread the word about their products or services and generate revenue. However, the exchanges of various types of digital advertisements can be abused to add malicious code to a user’s device. This practice is often known as malvertising.

Though no device can ever be made to be unhackabe. Ad blockers are being viewed as a helpful additional layer of protection to screen out malvertising and other forms of malware hidden in ads, before they can make it to the browsers.

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