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Government spyware is another reason to use an ad blocker | TechCrunch

Government spyware is another reason to use an ad blocker | TechCrunch

Ad blockers may seem like an unlikely defense in the fight against spyware, but new reporting sheds new light on how spyware makers are weaponizing online advertising to allow governments to monitor. can go.

Spyware makers are reportedly capable of finding and stealthily infecting specific targets with spyware using banner ads.

One of the startups working on ad-based spyware infection systems is Intellexa, a European company that produces Predator spyware. The hunter is able to access the entire contents of the target's phone in real time.

According to Documents seen by Israeli news agency Haaretz, Intellexa presented a proof-of-concept system called Aladdin in 2022 that enabled the planting of phone spyware through online advertising. The documents included a demo of Aladdin's system with technical descriptions of how the spyware infects its targets and examples of malicious advertising: “Apparently targeting graphic designers and workers with job offers, through which spyware will be introduced to their device,” Haaretz reported

It is not clear whether Aladdin was fully developed or sold to official customers.

Another private Israeli company called. Insanet managed to develop an ad-based infection system. Able to locate an individual within an ad network, Haaretz revealed last year.

Online advertising helps website owners, including this one, generate income. But online ad exchanges can be used to deliver malicious code to a target device.

Delivery of malware through malicious ads, often called malvertising, works by inserting malicious code into ads displayed on websites on computer and phone browsers. Most of these attacks rely on some interaction with the victim, such as tapping a link or opening a malicious file.

But the global ubiquity of online advertising greatly increases the reach that government users have to target people — including their critics — with stealthy spyware.

While no phone or computer can ever be completely unhacked, ad blockers can be effective in stopping malvertising and ad-based malware before it hits the browser.

Ad blockers — as the name suggests — prevent ads from appearing in web browsers. Adblockers don't just hide ads, they prevent the primary website from loading ads to begin with. It's also good for privacy, because it means ad exchanges can't use tracking code to see which sites users visit while browsing the web. Ad-blocking software is also available for phones.

Security experts have long recommended using ad blockers to prevent malware attacks. In 2022, the FBI said In a public service announcement Using an ad blocker as an online safety precaution.

“Everyone should block ads,” Tweeted In response to the Haaretz report, John Scott Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab who has investigated government spyware, said: “It's a matter of safety.”

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