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    Princeton researchers have created an ad-blocking superweapon

    Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/a...king-arms-race
    Princeton’s Ad-Blocking Superweapon May Put an End to the Ad-Blocking Arms Race.



    An ad blocker that uses computer vision appears to be the most powerful ever devised and can evade all known anti ad blockers.

    A team of Princeton and Stanford University researchers has fundamentally reinvented how ad-blocking works, in an attempt to put an end to the advertising versus ad-blocking arms race. The ad blocker they've created is lightweight, evaded anti ad-blocking scripts on 50 out of the 50 websites it was tested on, and can block Facebook ads that were previously unblockable.

    The software, devised by Arvind Narayanan, Dillon Reisman, Jonathan Mayer, and Grant Storey, is novel in two major ways: First, it looks at the struggle between advertising and ad blockers as fundamentally a security problem that can be fought in much the same way antivirus programs attempt to block malware, using techniques borrowed from rootkits and built-in web browser customizability to stealthily block ads without being detected. Second, the team notes that there are regulations and laws on the books that give a fundamental advantage to consumers that cannot be easily changed, opening the door to a long-term ad-blocking solution.

    The Federal Trade Commission regulations require advertisements to be clearly labeled so that a human can recognize them, which has created a built-in advantage for consumers and, now, ad blockers. The team used several computer vision techniques to detect ads the same way that a human would, which they call "perceptual ad blocking." Because advertisers must comply with these regulations, the authors imagine an "end game" in which consumers—and ad blockers—ultimately win.

    "Unlike the behavior of malware, the behavior of both publishers/advertisers and ad-blocking tools already is, and will continue to be, shaped by regulations," they write in a paper explaining the ad blocker. "A favorable legal climate and the existence of browsers friendly toward ad-blocking extensions are two key factors that may tip the scales toward users."

    Ad-blocking is obviously a fraught ethical topic—especially for a journalist whose salary is paid for in large part by advertising. The rise of malvertising, invasive tracking and surveillance, and heavyweight scripts that can bog down browser performance mean that there is a strong case to be made for blocking ads (a recent study found that advertising and scripts slow down web pages by an average of 44 percent). On the other hand, ads allow companies like VICE to keep the lights on, and widespread ad-blocking has already made significant dents in the revenue streams of online publishers.

    While the researchers don't take an ethical stance about whether you should use an ad blocker or not, they do believe that the advertiser/publisher/reader relationships must fundamentally change.

    "The fundamental problem with online ads today is a misalignment of incentives—not just between users and advertisers, but between publishers and advertisers," Narayanan told me in an email. "We've consistently found that publishers are upset about rampant online tracking and the security problems with ads, but they don't have much control over ad tech. Changing this power imbalance is important if we want a long-term solution."

    A proof of concept is now available for Chrome, but is not fully functional (as in, it only detects ads, it doesn't block them): "To avoid taking sides on the ethics of ad-blocking, we have deliberately stopped short of making our proof-of-concept tool fully functional—it is configured to detect ads but not actually block them," Narayanan said.

    With two highly motivated parties involved—a largely open source ad-blocking developer community and publishers who have their bottom lines at stake—the ad-blocking arms race has gotten significantly more complex over the past several years. Popular ad blockers like Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin work by detecting code that is used by standard ads; urls and markup code popularly used in ads are shared on huge open source lists that are often maintained by humans.

    This means advertisers and publishers can simply change the code they use to deliver their ads to defeat them. This type of ad-blocking is often easily detected by anti ad blockers, which are deployed on the sites of more than 50 popular publishers. Finally, traditional ad blockers fail to block native ads that look like normal content, which is why your ad blockers won't detect and block sponsored posts on Facebook.

    Perceptual ad-blocking, on the other hand, ignores those codes and those lists. Instead, it uses optical character recognition, design techniques, and container searches (the boxes that ads are commonly put in on a page) to detect words like "sponsored" or "close ad" that are required to appear on every ad, which is what allows it to detect and block Facebook ads.

    "As long as the disclosure standards are unambiguous and adhered to, a perceptual ad blocker will have a 100 percent recall at identifying ads governed by that standard," the researchers wrote. Because new disclosure standards generally have to go through legal vetting and are required, they are less likely to change than the code used to deliver the ads.

    To defeat anti ad blockers, the researchers say they've borrowed techniques from rootkits, which are often used for malware but can be adapted to "hide their existence and activities" from ad-blocking detectors. This is done because browser extensions are given a higher "privilege" than advertisements and ad blocker detectors. Another technique that was not used but was proposed to hide the ad blockers' activities is even more impressive. They are able to "create two copies of the page, one which the user sees (and to which ad-blocking will be applied) and one which the publisher code interacts with, and to ensure that information propagates between these copies in one direction but not the other."

    What we have, then, is research that points toward a potential end of the ad-blocking arms race. Your move, publishers.
    Finally a lightweight solution that can block any cancer, including those Facebook ones!. Yey!

  2. #2
    can we have a download link please?

  3. #3
    If it displays a little banner like in the picture, "THIS IS NOT A JOKE YOU ARE THE 100,000 VISITOR" and when clicked tells the user how to donate, then I'm all for it.
    .

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Project 501D13R View Post
    can we have a download link please?
    Read article.

  5. #5
    The Unstoppable Force Ghostpanther's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubcap View Post
    If it displays a little banner like in the picture, "THIS IS NOT A JOKE YOU ARE THE 100,000 VISITOR" and when clicked tells the user how to donate, then I'm all for it.
    Or one could simply use Firefox browser and set Flashplayer in Firefox's options to enable/disable and not see those. I never see that add you are referring to.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostpanther View Post
    Or one could simply use Firefox browser and set Flashplayer in Firefox's options to enable/disable and not see those. I never see that add you are referring to.
    I'm assuming this new add blocker puts that banner at the top of the page like the image in the OP. Maybe if you click on that it tells you how to white list the site or something. I'll probably try the add blocker out at some point though ublock origin works well for me now.
    .

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  7. #7
    Legendary! Logwyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hubcap View Post
    I'm assuming this new add blocker puts that banner at the top of the page like the image in the OP. Maybe if you click on that it tells you how to white list the site or something. I'll probably try the add blocker out at some point though ublock origin works well for me now.
    I think you can do this already with any browser. I see nothing revolutionary with this Princeton ad blocking program.

  8. #8
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    I have trouble taking seriously anyone still using Vista.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nixx View Post
    Fuck them for "not taking a side" really.
    This is where my thoughts went.

    This article is mostly bullshit because at the end of the day, all they released as a "proof of concept" that doesn't actually do anything.
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  10. #10
    You know, it's actually in everyone's best interests that we keep our mouths shut and don't encourage normal people to use ad blockers. Let's just do it ourselves and let non-technical people subsidise the internet.

    Otherwise we'll end up devaluing things like Google ads that pay for a lot of shit on the internet. That drives advertiser dollars away from the open model to more closed ones. Nobody wants that.
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  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Mormolyce View Post
    You know, it's actually in everyone's best interests that we keep our mouths shut and don't encourage normal people to use ad blockers. Let's just do it ourselves and let non-technical people subsidise the internet.

    Otherwise we'll end up devaluing things like Google ads that pay for a lot of shit on the internet. That drives advertiser dollars away from the open model to more closed ones. Nobody wants that.
    Lololol this guy from my grad school a year or two ago did programming work with a big company in India. Like, he wrote large high end software. And he didn't know you could use adblock to stop youtube ads. Even tech people are dumb, apparently.

  12. #12
    Was considering making a thread on this all on it's own but as far as "anti ad blocking" scripts go - you should see what happens to the traffic on those sites. It has been a disaster for big sites like forbes that saw a huge dip in traffic afterward.

    I think we are at a point when this has gone beyond blocking now and there needs to be a new way forward because people have obviously had enough.
    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

  13. #13
    I like how the MMO-C page was used as an example in your post. I didn't even know what ad blockers were, until I was forced to seek a solution to the outrageous stuff this website puts up there. When you have been on other tabs for like 10 minutes, and then your ears get absolutely blasted by the MMO-C tab, it tends to be upsetting. I'm actually pretty amazed that delayed high volume stuff is even legal.

  14. #14
    The Insane Masark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mormolyce View Post
    You know, it's actually in everyone's best interests that we keep our mouths shut and don't encourage normal people to use ad blockers. Let's just do it ourselves and let non-technical people subsidise the internet.
    Except that us technical people have to clean up the disasters that malware-infested ads cause.

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  15. #15
    The adblocking arms race is mainly because the blockers are overused. Unless the ads on the site have malware in them, put up with it.
    We're either going to push people to have safer ads or push people to resort to more and more underhanded tactics to make money off their websites.

    (Yes I say this having ads blocked on this website. Get it together, MMO-champion!)
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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Powerogue View Post
    The adblocking arms race is mainly because the blockers are overused. Unless the ads on the site have malware in them, put up with it.
    We're either going to push people to have safer ads or push people to resort to more and more underhanded tactics to make money off their websites.

    (Yes I say this having ads blocked on this website. Get it together, MMO-champion!)
    No, it mainly is because advertisers switched from static ads to annoying pop ups and motion/sound ads. Advertisers have always driven this arms race, ad blockers are a defensive response. In a world where the advertisers didn't become annoying shits the second they could the rate of ad-blocking would probably be sub 1%

  17. #17
    The Patient sonololo's Avatar
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    I'm more inclined to use the other type of adblocker – the one that clicks on every ad on the page. On every. No exceptions.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Masark View Post
    Except that us technical people have to clean up the disasters that malware-infested ads cause.
    Quietly install adblock in your elderly parents' PC and don't tell anyone.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Blueobelisk View Post
    Lololol this guy from my grad school a year or two ago did programming work with a big company in India. Like, he wrote large high end software. And he didn't know you could use adblock to stop youtube ads. Even tech people are dumb, apparently.
    This is true, but anyway - let's let Darwin decide who gets to use adblock...

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Tijuana View Post
    I like how the MMO-C page was used as an example in your post. I didn't even know what ad blockers were, until I was forced to seek a solution to the outrageous stuff this website puts up there. When you have been on other tabs for like 10 minutes, and then your ears get absolutely blasted by the MMO-C tab, it tends to be upsetting. I'm actually pretty amazed that delayed high volume stuff is even legal.
    I have no idea how you've managed to avoid that on the entire rest of the internet somehow. News sites are lousy with that kind of thing, and a lot of the time it's video content rather than ads so they're not even blocked.
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  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Mormolyce View Post
    Quietly install adblock in your elderly parents' PC and don't tell anyone.

    - - - Updated - - -



    This is true, but anyway - let's let Darwin decide who gets to use adblock...

    - - - Updated - - -



    I have no idea how you've managed to avoid that on the entire rest of the internet somehow. News sites are lousy with that kind of thing, and a lot of the time it's video content rather than ads so they're not even blocked.
    Eh, this was the first site to really be aggressive, to me. It's been years now since I have been blocking ads, and I think it's probably gotten worse over time.

  20. #20
    "..fail to block native ads that look like normal content" <-- isn't that called a REASONABLE ad ?

    If all ads fell into that category, I'd not have a problem with them.

    Anyway - noone uses Adblock any more now that uBlock Origin does more with far fewer problems.

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