Saturday, November 10, 2007

Block ads, tracking, and browser hi-jacks

I've found a very useful tool to block ads, cookie trackers, and known browser hi-jacks. I've been using it successfully for several years, and it significantly reduced the spyware on the machines I manage. It works by sending unwanted communication attempts to known servers back to the loopback address ( where, of course, that server doesn't exist. It works on Mac, Linux, and Windows by replacing the hosts file.

Simply download MVPS's custom hosts file, remove the .txt suffix, and place it in either /etc (Linux/Mac) or C:\windows\system32\drivers\etc (Windows), overwriting the file that's there. For a warm fuzzy, save a copy of the old hosts file first. For Windows, you should then either do a reboot or a dnsflush to help your network software recognize the new file entries.

Aside from the security benefits, it will speed up your internet connection, since you don't have to download ad graphics. It will display a red 'X' for those graphics in your browser.

You'll notice that the Google search results that point to ads don't work anymore. If you need to see certain ad servers, simply edit the file and comment out those entries. Warning: don't curiously plug any of the host entries into your browser; some of them are very nasty and/or malicious (that's why you want to block them in the first place!).

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