adblocking

All posts tagged adblocking

I was planning to setup a Raspberry Pi to use my hosts file to filter out and block ads, but while digging around on the web found a project that had already done that along with added a web admin panel and statistics too.  Pi-hole is a quick and easy to install ab-blocking solution for the whole network.

Their site has a well laid out guide and their support is fast should you run into any issues. For the most part though it’s 1) get a Pi with Raspbian Lite 2) run curl -L https://install.pi-hole.net | bash on the Pi then 3) make a couple changes on router DNS server and restart systems to receive updated settings. Once up and running all devices connecting to your network will enjoy ad-blocking even if ad-block software is not or can’t be installed on them.

Mine has been running for number of months now without any issues and receives regular updates of ad sites to block. A quick look at the admin panel shows the current day’s statistics.
pi-hole_admin

My last post discussed updating the host file on Andriod. After doing a bit more tweaking I wrote a script which can be downloaded at the end of the article or created from the code below. The script will automatically download the latest hosts file from mvps.org and install it. It requires to be run as root and under the assumption that /sdcard exists as a storage location. Remember also to set the script permission to 700. The script can also be added to the crontab so you don’t have to worry about it again. (Next article will go over setting up crond and crontab on Android)

The Script:

#!/system/bin/sh

#Remount /system RW
mount -o remount,rw /system

#Make copy of current hosts file if backup does not exist
#Comment out this block if you have installed mvps.org hosts file before making backup
if [ ! -f /etc/.etchosts ]; then
cp /etc/hosts /etc/.etchosts
fi

#Check and create tmp dir if required
if [ ! -d /sdcard/tmp ]; then
mkdir /sdcard/tmp
fi

cd /sdcard/tmp
wget http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt
cat hosts.txt > /etc/hosts
rm hosts.txt

#If you need to add lines to host file
#make changes to /etc/.etchosts
#and uncomment next line to enable appending to hosts
#cat /etc/.etchosts >> /etc/hosts

#Remount /system RO
mount -o remount,ro /system

Download:

android_update_hosts.zip
sha256sum 95256b28deee2cbcd418f51ed6e358d42b7651bdbcc955521457dc370e5c537a android_update_hosts.sh

By now anyone using the internet is bombarded by ads everywhere online unless measures are taken to minimize them. There are plenty of ad blocking programs out there but another method that is easy is implement is the use of the hosts file. Originally this file was used to map hosts names to IP address before Domain Name Servers (DNS) was implemented in 1984 allowed for the process to be automated. For most end users today this file is unused but could provide beneficial experiences if configured. When an IP address is specified in the hosts file for a domain the system will use that address, allowing blocking of sites by directing them to 0.0.0.0 or 127.0.0.1. This can be used to stop ads from loading and potentially increase page load times. Now it might seem like a tedious task to add all the add sites to block but there are providers of hosts files that are already completed and updated regularly; I use MVPs.org to provide my hosts files.

Note that while the hosts file when configured can block ads and some malware redirects, it is only an additional layer of protection. Systems should still run other forms of protection such as anti-virus and anti-malware with the hosts file. Below are instructions to load the file from MVPs.org to the most common operating systems.

Windows:

The hosts file in modern distributions is located at %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts and can be edited with notepad or other text editors. Just be sure not not add any extension like .txt which the built in notepad is known for doing. Note that the file is in the windows directory so any app trying to edit it will require being run as administrator.

Thankfully however, MVPs.org has an app to update the host file easily. Just download the zip file from http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm and unzip to a folder. Then right-click the mvps batch file and choose Run as administrator. This will load the downloaded data into the host file. More detailed instructions and the date of last updated host file is available on their site.

Linux:

While I was manually updating host files before, came across a post to make a script for Linux which when added to the chrontab allows for easily maintaining the most up to date hosts file. Visit http://www.putorius.net/2012/01/block-unwanted-advertisements-on.html for details and description of the script. I made a few small changes.

To complete these steps you will need to be running as root or using sudo su to get root permission. Your prompt should end with #

First, backup your current host file:
cp /etc/hosts /etc/.etchosts

Next use vi or nano to create the script /root/update_hosts.sh and add the following code to it:
#!/bin/bash
cd /tmp
wget http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt
rm /etc/hosts
mv hosts.txt /etc/hosts
cat /etc/.etchosts >> /etc/hosts

Make the file executable by running:
chmod +x /root/update_hosts.sh

Schedule to run automatically:
run crontab -e then add the line below to make it update nightly at 23:59
59 23 * * * /root/update_hosts.sh > /dev/null 2>&1
The time can be changed by adjusting the numbers. the > /dev/null 2>&1 is sending all output from the scheduled job to the bit bucket so that crontab does not email the results each night.

Mac:

Instructions for updating the Mac OS host file can be found here: http://pointhope.de/tips&tricks/no_place_like_localhost.html

Android:

If you have root on your Android device the hosts file is stored at /system/etc/hosts and can be changed with a terminal app, however you will need to mount the path as R/W before changes can be made. Something like Beansoft – Mount /system (rw / ro) will do the job. Because on Android the hosts file is symbolic linked to /etc/hosts as well it seems to not want to allow overwriting the file but the contents can be changed with the cat command and achieve the same desired result.

Remember to run su as commands require root access.

First time  backup your current hosts file:
cp /system/etc/hosts /system/etc/.etchosts

Then run the following to update:
cd /sdcard/tmp
If you do not have a /sdcard/tmp directory run mkdir /sdcard/tmp and rerun the cd command above
wget http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt
cat hosts.txt > /system/etc/hosts
cat /system/etc/.etchosts >> /system/etc/hosts
rm hosts.txt

At this point you can exit terminal and then remount System as R/O.