HummingBad: The Latest Example of the Failure of Mobile Advertising

It seems like we drive home the same argument week after week. We’ve mentioned the lack of safety and protection for consumers in mobile advertising several times now. Malware has been able to infiltrate ad networks run by Google, Yahoo, and more, and there has yet to have been a significant investigation into fixing them. We now know that more than just hackers are committing foul play on these networks.

The HummingBad malware virus is running on almost 85 million devices worldwide since its discovery in February, and a Chinese advertising agency is behind its creation. Yingmob, a group of cybercriminals that work alongside an advertising agency, generate $300,000 a month in fraudulent revenue. By utilizing that agency’s resources, they are able to gain control of thousands of devices each day. With a consistent stream of money, these hackers can further develop HummingBad to be even more effective. They can compartmentalize devices to run attacks or sell information they gather.

All of this info is made available by Check Point, who recently released an impressive report titled “From HummingBad to Worse.” HummingBad essentially takes control of a user’s device and installs hundreds of applications on the device, many of which are malicious. The apps serve up to 20 million ads a day, practically robbing advertising networks of money. For more technical details on how the malware affects Google Play, host files, and more, download Check Point’s report.

We’re at the point where malvertising should be a legitimate concern for any demographic on Android. Millions of people around the globe are at risk. HummingBad is able to log financial and personal info. People’s’ livelihoods are at stake. Will this be the kick in the ribs for advertisers and ad networks to do something besides offer platitudes?

To remain safe from advertisers on your Android device, download AdClear. It’s free, and it blocks encrypted ads, noted for being a hotbed for malware. We also recently released the AdClear Lite extension for Safari and Samsung Browser.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | 1 Comment

Block YouTube ads with AdClear

As an ad blocker, YouTube is the heavyweight champion of advertising. Since video ads are the most effective, Google puts significant time and resources into ensuring that end users see these ads. These video ads are encrypted and shown on any video, regardless of length. So the effectiveness of these ads relies very little on user enjoyment.

AdClear prides itself on blocking YouTube ads. Our Advanced Protection was the first of its kind for non-rooted Android users. As other apps adopt our model, YouTube becomes more aware of ads being blocked. In the past few months, the certificate has seemed to work under fewer conditions. With the multitude of apps and browsers with which to visit YouTube, there are a similar amount of methods with which to deliver video ads. Users of YouTube apps, especially, have found our certificate to be inconsistent. No longer.

Our programming team has recently found a breakthrough way to block ads on YouTube across all platforms. Users will notice consistent performance from AdClear. The average amount of time spent on YouTube for mobile users is around forty minutes. Our goal is to ensure that you see zero video ads each session. YouTube is sure to fight back, but we are committed to improving upon this feature in the coming weeks. We’re excited to offer our users an ad-free experience.

AdClear is available to download for free from our website. We also recently released AdClear Lite for Safari and Samsung Browser. Stay tuned for more updates!

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

Red Herring: Ad Blockers Aren’t Harming the Rampant Growth of Digital Advertising

It’s pretty much confirmed at this point that advertisers are crying wolf. The debate has always been centered around reduced profits as a result of ad blocker adoption, but that loss appears to be exaggerated.

We like to use the latest published research in our articles, and this is no different. Juniper Research has found that digital ad spending will exceed 285 billion dollars by 2020. For a more than 20% annual increase, advertisers sure seem worried about ad blockers. This is whitewashing, plain and simple. At every public conference, advertisers acknowledge their malicious practices while calling ad blockers a brash response.

Meanwhile, content deliverers continue to combat ad blockers, and advertisers are continuing to offer no solutions. Why should they? From their point of view, they’re raking in cash, and they seem more than willing to hedge their bets on pro-business capitalist sentiment. And that’s honestly a smart move; though privacy concerns have become more mainstream, those willing to take action are still the minority.

The fault isn’t on the user, though. Breakthroughs in user targeting are supposed to be the boon to growth advertisers are expecting. That means even more tracking than the near-hundreds that litter some of the most popular sites. With advertisers acknowledging that ads need to be rethought and less invasive, look for buzzwords like “rich media” and “simple formats” to guise the same behavior most vilify.

While we continue to wear the title of “bad guys” with honor, join the dark side and download AdClear on your Android phone. We also recently released AdClear Lite for Safari and Samsung Browser. We will continue to protect our users from nefarious tactics they have little say in.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

Why Denying the Reasons Behind Ad Blocking Exacerbates the Problem

Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times, recently said that “No one who refuses to contribute to the creation of high quality journalism has the right to consume it.” Thompson says that the Times will resort to blocking all ad blocking users if necessary. This falsely dichotomous stance has taken hold of most content providers, as they feel that they are victims. My bone to pick isn’t about their stance (it’s hardly unexpected)but rather their refusal of ambiguity. Ad blocking will, without question, cause the Times to lose money. Consumers, however, continue to lose their privacy, safety, and time to internet advertising. Woe is me will not be received well by an audience that is manipulated just to read the news.

We’ve mentioned Forbes’ paywall use and malware attacks previously. Try visiting their mobile site without an ad blocker; the amount of ads is preposterous. Not one content provider has taken steps to prevent malware from being in their advertisements, and sites like Forbes continue to employ ad tactics that can accidentally cause consumers to click on them.

Thompson seems to believe high quality journalism can exist across a literal background of ads that are fraudulent, infected with malware, or just generally annoying. When a high-profile establishment makes a rallying cry against ad blockers, they’re eschewing facts and recent history. None of these calls for pity make mention of their fragile security, tracking tactics, or low-brow advertisers. Abandoning the truth isn’t going to convince a base of mostly tech savvy people to change their actions. Perhaps this is known by the Times, which means this type of move is due to a perceived stubbornness in ad blocker users. The truth is that ad blocker adoption is a decision based in reality, and responses that don’t account for the whole truth will be rightfully scoffed at. Try again.

While this crying fit persists for the foreseeable future, you’ll probably want to block ads on your phone. Mobile phones are the new frontier for advertisers, and they’re trying to milk their profits while they last. AdClear is available for free on Android from our website. There is also the new AdClear Lite browser extension for Safari and the Samsung browser.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

Users Want Free Ad Blocking on Mobile Phones

Besides paywalls, many content providers are offering users the ability to pay for an ad-free experience. These responses to ad blockers continue to defy public perception. As reported by TUNE, close to 75% of smartphone users wouldn’t pay a dollar annually to avoid ads in all of their apps.

Could this mean that the negative feelings toward digital ads have wavered? Hardly. Pagefair reports that mobile ad blocking use is outpacing predictions from just last year. This seems to be all about money. As a service, ad blockers are a direct response to an unregulated business that keeps the “customer” at their mercy. Ad blocker users don’t see themselves as customers rather than consumers. The marked difference is that there was never a charge before. The advertising model is one that consumers never had a say in. They don’t want to have to spend money to shed light on this parasitic relationship.

That sentiment extends to ad blockers. There are several different business models in the industry currently. AdClear remains free for users through our analytical business model. Over the past few months, AdClear’s become a completely different product through the introduction of features like language filters, malware protection, and a whitelist. These changes have all come at no cost to the user, and we stay engaged with them when prioritizing updates. Over time, AdClear will continue to refine itself into what our users want. As of now, it’s clear they just want the ads gone at no cost.

AdClear is available to download for free from our website.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

What’s new in AdClear

Over the past month we’ve made some major changes to AdClear. The most important is our addition of language filters. We are now able to block ads in a variety of languages, including:


There is also a Privacy list that blocks cookies and trackers. These additions have globalized AdClear, helping billions of people around the world block ads. Just last month, we had over fifteen thousand downloads, and the numbers continue to increase.

Changes of this magnitude require meticulous testing to ensure everything works properly. That is why we’ve launched the new AdClear Beta program. Beta testing helps us fix bugs while allowing users the chance to try out new builds prior to release. Our dedicated user base has helped make the program a success, but we’re always looking for more testers. If you’d like to sign up, just follow this link.

We have much more to share in the future, such as increased malware protection. Our team is committed to improve upon AdClear and make it the best ad blocker for Android devices. Stay tuned for more.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

Sites Currently Detecting Ad Blockers are Breaking European Law

Sites that detect ad blockers are considered to be breaking European Union law. Though detecting and preventing ad blocker users from accessing content is fine, detecting an ad blocker is a request for user information. Requesting personal information requires getting permission first. Article 5.3 of the ePrivacy Directive makes it clear that gaining information stored in the equipment of a user is allowed on the condition of consent, and they’ve recently clarified that this extends to ad blocking scripts. This is a big deal for the upwards of 500 million people this law covers.

These scripts are spreading like wildfire. It’s possible that a significant portion of the law are breaking the law, and ad blocker users could possibly be able to sue over this breach of privacy. Whether sites will be punished under these circumstances is questionable as of now, but it only proves how little advertisers care about the agency of internet users.

The fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaign against ad blockers is only to turn frustration away from these practices. There still is no solution for the malware that is taking over ad networks, and the absurdity of its existence has yet to enter public consciousness. Foul play will only be able to continue for so long, and once the EU courts come into play, we may see worldwide changes in how ads are served.

Before any future actions are taken in the European Union, it’s a good idea to install an ad blocker. We’re proud to announce that AdClear now supports easy lists for several other languages, like Spanish, Portuguese, French, Polish, and German. These lists allow users to block ads that are native to these languages. If you want to block the ads these sites feel the need to protect, download AdClear from our website. You might get some settlement money, too!

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

App Insight #2: Shazam

We’re back with our second App Insight segment, where we measure the typical amount of ads one sees when using an app, then see how AdClear blocks those ads. Today, we will be looking at Shazam. Probably the most famous app for identifying music, Shazam has over 100 million downloads on the Google Play store. Since users typically want to identify a song and maybe read its lyrics, we’re going to set the session time for a liberal five minutes.

First, we’ll explore the ads on each page. After launching Shazam we found no ads on the home screen. The first ad we encounter is when switching to the My Shazam tab. Here, we see a go90 ad on the AdSense network. The ad didn’t appear to change after three minutes, so I switched over to the Charts tab. Here, we’re greeted by our old pals at Google Play! It looks like all the ads will be over the AdSense network, which means they’re encrypted.

I clicked on the new Sia song, Cheap Thrills and was taken to this page. There’s a sponsored ad that might be native, and there’s another google ad when you expand the lyrics screen.

This is where we switched AdClear on. With its security certificate, AdClear will get rid of those annoying Google ads. We backed out to the Charts screen, and we’re greeted by a black bar. This is a good sign! I then revisited the Sia page, and the sponsored ad is still there. This may be out of our hands if it’s native to the screen, but we’ll count it as a loss.

After expanding the lyrics, the ads are gone again. Unfortunately, upon revisiting the My Shazam tab, the go90 ad was still there. So, we’ll chalk up another loss.

Finally, I wanted to test the song identification function. I tested out an instrumental song to see what the page would do without lyrics. Here we see that there was a banner ad that we’ve blocked, and at the bottom, the same type of ad is still there.

When checking AdClear, it shows we’ve blocked 27 ads in less than five minutes That means 27 out of 30, or 90% of ads, were blocked. There are many ad requests occurring in the background that you may not see. That’s why anything less than 100% isn’t good enough for us, but those ads could equate to megabytes of data use when away from a wifi connection. Before you use Shazam, make sure you’ve got AdClear running! It could save you a lot of data! AdClear is available to download from our website.

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

App Analysis #1: Zedge Ringtones

We’re beginning a new series where we look into the ads in applications. We will use an app for a decent amount of time and figure out how it utilizes ads. Then, we will try to determine how well AdClear blocks them. Up first is Zedge Ringtones. It’s consistently in the top 25 free apps and has over 100 million downloads. It’s also inundated with ads.

Most of the ads in Zedge are located on a banner on the bottom of the screen. After first launching the app (with AdClear off), there’s this Wish ad.


After a few seconds, it changed to an ad for Madden. I decided to time the banner.

12:28 Kohl’s
12:28 Mobile Strike
12:29 Wish
12:29 Amazon
12:30 Kohl’s
12:30 Richard Holt Plumbing
12:31 Geek
12:31 Wish

That’s about a 30 second lasting time, which is pretty standard but cruel in an app like this.

I then downloaded and turned on AdClear, making sure the number of ads blocked starts at 0. Upon moving over to Zedge, we’re greeted with an unfortunate site: a Progressive ad. This means our SSL interception didn’t work properly. After it cycles out, we get a black bar for a few seconds before the same ad returns. Does this mean we’ve blocked one ad out of three? Not necessarily. Looking at our statistics, AdClear has blocked 17 ads in between those two ads. Over the next few minutes the same behaviour occurred, with 11 more ads blocked.

I decided to use the app for the next twenty minutes, and there was nothing. No black blocks, no ads, no interruptions. I took one screenshot after five minutes ad-free, then waited to capture any ad that popped up while browsing the app, but I got nothing. By 12:56, AdClear had blocked 60 ads in 20 minutes and let 2 through.

As we noted last week, each of these ads would be quite taxing on cellular data. 60 ads would be, roughly, in the range of 20-30 megabytes of data. That is great, but it isn’t good enough. Our goal is to block 100% of ads, and we need your help to do it. If you find a lot of ads in an app while using AdClear, use the Send Feedback option in the menu to let us know. We will work to improve your performance as soon as possible. AdClear is available to download directly from our website.

For inquiries, contact:
Christian Sandlin

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment

Save up to Half of Your Mobile Data by Using AdClear

We’ve posted a series of articles noting why safety and privacy are causes for the rise of mobile ad blockers. Now, we look at data. It’s common knowledge that ads are data-intensive, but would you wager a guess as to how much? Enders Analysis did a small experiment measuring news sites’ data distribution. Up to 79% of that data was attributable to advertisements.


The researchers said that ads could take up half of mobile data. This corresponds with research that ad blockers reduce data by about 50%. Arguing morality is becoming more and more fallacious; there is money lost by both sites and users. In the chart above, almost all of the ads carried a size in megabytes. Most cellular data plans start off at about 300 megabytes per month; a hypothetical user would have to limit their browsing to very few pages to be able to watch videos or send photos over data. The 8.1 MB outlier above was caused by a video, and its ads could constitute an entire page!

Data has become integrated with professional and personal lives, and advertisements should not command a majority of internet data for mobile users. Google and Facebook are aware of this; they’ve both introduced their respective AMP and Canvas initiatives to reduce data bloat. Both are limited to sites that adopt them and are, as of now, very conceptual. It’s going to be a long time before this problem is fixed.

In the meantime, try AdClear if you’re an Android user. It doesn’t involve rooting the phone, and it’s the only ad blocker of its kind that blocks encrypted ads. That means YouTube ads and ads delivered over HTTPS. The best part is: it’s free. Try it now from our website.

Posted in Network Congestion | Leave a comment