Blocking Pop-Ups & Other Internet Ads

What they are: Pop-ups, pop-unders, and pop-over ads – annoying but also dangerous.  Pop-ups are separate windows that typically feature advertising and appear over the site that you are visiting.  You usually have to close the window to get back to the task at hand.  Pop-unders, which are growing in popularity, show up under your current window so that they are not immediately as obvious.  They are especially evil because if you’re like most people and visit many sites during an Internet session, you won’t even know from which site the pop-under came.  Pop-overs or hover ads are the newest thing – they usually appear as a transparent layer over the website you are viewing.

Why they’re dangerous: While the advertisements displayed can be from real businesses, pop-ups can also be avenues for Phishing scams intended to steal your confidential information or malware intended to spread viruses, worms, or spyware.   In May 2011, MAC users became vulnerable to a double doozy phishing/malware scheme when pop-up windows advertising anti-virus software called “Mac Defender” (sounds real, right?) led them to a site that “scans” their computers.  Of course, the scan allegedly found that the computer was infected and then sold the consumer anti-virus software to fix their problem.  The victims paid for the rogue security software with their credit cards (financial info – Bingo!), and instead of anti-virus software, they downloaded malware.

How to stop them: All browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, etc.) now allow you to block pop-ups.  The option to block pops is usually found under the tools, options, or preferences section of your browser.  Just select “block pops” as shown in the example below.

There are websites that legitimately use pop-ups for important functions.  For example, some online banking sites will want to open a separate pop-up to display a statement or check.  Blocking pop-ups may disable these functions but you can easily unblock pop-ups temporarily to view the information that you need.  Just remember to select the block pop-up option when you’re finished.

Another solution offered by programs, such as Firefox, is the ability to specify exceptions to the block pop-up rule so that you can still block the majority of pop-ups without losing functionality from websites where you want them.  Many of the commercially available virus software packages also feature popblockers.  Numerous free and paid popblocker-only programs are available online.  Check for reviews at websites such as or

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A method of tricking consumers into handing over their personal information by posing as a legitimate entity.

Software installed on your computer without your consent to monitor or control your computer use.

Identifies and protects against threats or vulnerabilities that may compromise your computer or your personal information; includes anti-virus and anti-spyware software and firewalls


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