Sunday, 25 September 2016

Block This: An Ad-Blocker for Android Without Requiring Root

Recently I discovered Block This in my long search for an ad-blocker for Android worth the name. There are of course several products around, first and foremost perhaps the venerable AdblockPlus, but they all have the problem that they require root access, i.e. the phone to be rooted. I have no intention of doing this as I simply can't be bothered enough to mess around with a smart phone and security-wise it's a much better idea to keep it locked down. If you don't know what I'm talking about don't worry, you don't need to.

Like I said, Block This works without rooting your device. The way it does this is by creating a local VPN connection and then rerouting all DNS requests through their servers. As an added benefit you also get malware protection and of course mobile traffic is using less data, with all the undesirable gunk filtered out. This is not unusual, several firewalls and other security products, web filters and speed enhancers like OperaMax are doing the same as there is no other way to implement this on Android without root.


It is also Open Source and free to use. Google have removed it from the Play Store like most effective ad-blockers so you need to go to their site to download it. In contrast, OperaMax is available there, but it doesn't remove ads or claim to block anything, it is simply compressing web pages to cut down on traffic. So far it's been working well here but I am unclear whether there's an additional layer of encryption. Probably not, as it's not a real VPN. Which brings us to the biggest problem with this type of service, which is that we can only have one VPN connection at a time.
With firewalls, ad-blockers, anti-virus and malware products like Dr. Web Security Space for Android all wanting to set one up we need to decide carefully, plus you might actually want/need a real VPN. My solution has so far been to use a VPN provider whose client now luckily also incorporates an ad and malware filter. The best possible solution but needs paying for. More about that another time.

Conclusion:

If you just want a good filter for a clean web experience that filters all of your traffic from all internet facing applications, which on a phone is pretty much everything, Block This is highly recommended, but you won't be able to use it together with a no root firewall like NetGuard. A way out may be to go through all applications in the Android manager and restrict background data there on a case by case basis.

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