Ad-blocking browser add-ons are great tools. In fact, I would't want to surf the Internet without one. A number of other tools can help improve privacy, too. Some add-ons that I find indispensable are:
For these reasons, I am using a very simple, yet brutally effective scheme to prevent my computer from even contacting many ad company's servers: I list them in the static host table.
The same is valid for ad companies. Let's assume you open a web page, and that web page wants to include an ad from Doubleclick (server name: ad.doubleclick.net). A DNS lookup would return either 126.96.36.199 or 188.8.131.52, depending on the load. However, all computers insert one step in-between:
The static IP table
There is a file on your computer, every computer, that contains a list of static IP addresses. These could include those for which no DNS entry exists, or for which DNS lookups are so frequent that a local lookup in the static host list significantly reduces network traffic and improves response time. Usually, this file is hopelessly under-used and most often contains only the localhost address, which is always 127.0.0.1.
Let's be more precise, we are really talking about the Class-A network 127.x.x.x with a total of roughly 16 million IP addresses. Each of these points back to your computer, whichever that is.
You can try it by, for example, using
ping 127.0.0.1You get a response from your own computer, and the response shows that your basic network subsystem (to be precise, the loopback interface) is up. Now all we need to do is teach your computer to circumvent the DNS lookup and let your computer think that ad.doubleclick.net is really 127.0.0.1.
Let's take a look at a default static host table. On Linux computers, this file is /etc/hosts:
127.0.0.1 localhost 127.0.1.1 my_linux_box # The following lines are desirable for IPv6 capable hosts ::1 ip6-localhost ip6-loopback fe00::0 ip6-localnet ff00::0 ip6-mcastprefix ff02::1 ip6-allnodes ff02::2 ip6-allroutersNow you need to edit this file (as root or with sudo) and add the following line:
127.0.0.1 ad.doubleclick.netIt will take a few minutes to hours until the cache has expired (or until you reboot the computer, but what Linux user does that?), after that, your computer will use the static host table to obtain the IP address of ad.doubleclick.net, and guess what -- it obtains 127.0.0.1.
So here is your computer thinking
Normally, you won't run a web server on your local computer, so your browser will return an "unable to connect" error. Or, perhaps you run a web server. In that case, you most likey get a 404 in return. In both cases, however, the request is handled locally, and NO INFORMATION has ever reached the "real" ad server.
Download my own /etc/hosts file (right-click and choose save-as). Then append this file to your existing /etc/hosts. Do not overwrite your /etc/hosts file, because you need the loopback interface!
You'll find this idea on the web, and a number of ad server lists exist for download. For example, here is another one. And here is another one.
Note that ad servers are part of a dynamic market. Ad server names change frequently, and I think that many of the entries in my file are already obsolete. So update your /etc/hosts frequently, and share your discoveries on the Web (e.g., in your blog).
Android, like iOS, is quite intrusive. All the more reason to modify your static host table as soon as you can!
Windows, on the other hand, is so intrusive on so many levels that I don't think I'd even bother.