Block More than Just Ads in Your Browser

Web browser ad blockers have received a lot of recent press.  Edward Snowden says use them.  Publishers wring their hands about them or put you on a guilt trip.  Yahoo! won’t let you see your email if you have one.  They’re so hot, someone even bought Adblock for Chrome.

Ad blockers are just one of the things I use to try to minimize both the noise and the intrusions on Web sites.  Privacy is one reason but it’s also just the overhead nonsense that gets injected into Web browsing.

No Flash

It used to be that I used a Flash blocker extension in my browser.  But Adobe Flash has become its own problem.  It has had 26 security updates so far in 2015.  So, like many security-conscious Web users recommend, I just uninstalled Flash instead.  There are sites and services I can no longer use but I’m willing to wait until HTML5 video catches on.

Ad Blocker

I used to use Adblock Plus for Firefox.  I’ve recently switched to uBlock Origin (Firefox | Chrome).  AdBlock Plus had two drawbacks.  One, it seemed to chew up a lot of memory.  Two, it defaulted to letting non-intrusive ads through.  There didn’t seem any point in using an app whose default was to let a subset of ads through.

script-attack-image

This is the source code on a Web site purporting to match clients with lawyers. The site’s terms and conditions page has an injected script, VBscript instead of Javascript. A script blocker can disable it.

No Scripts

Javascript enables Web pages to do more than present static text.  For awhile, in the early 2000s, it was normal for Web developers to worry about if someone’s Web browser had Javascript support.  Then it became pretty standard.  But its use to muck up information access may be making those do you use Javascript tests more important.

I’ve used it to generate URLs based on form input or to map courthouses.  It can also enable nefarious attacks, or to load content from remote locations.  In addition to blocking ad-like content, a script blocker can clean up a bunch of other distractions, including trackers.  I use NoScript for Firefox and have used ScriptSafe on Chrome.

I  think NoScript does a better job of blocking external sites, since it prompts you to enable both the site you’re visiting and all the sites it’s connected to.  ScriptSafe only seems to pick up the main site, but it’s visually more appealing in how it enables access.

Stylish

Stylish is my last line of defence.  By the time I have reached a site and blocked Flash, ads, and most javascripts, the only abuse I can still receive is from the Web site itself.  I use Stylish to remove the house ads, the who to follow and trending topics from Twitter, and other guff.  It means I can see a site almost as cleanly as if I was using one of the offline reader apps.