Blocking Floating Ads

A slightly different entry today.

3-4 months ago, I was prompted on the computer to install the latest Adobe Flash Player update. Right after doing so, I started getting a lot of ads popping up on Firefox. Generally, these were floating panels that would slide in to the right, left or bottom sides of the window whenever I visited a site that was ad sponsored. These contained additional ads for stuff already on the page, like for American Apparel. Closing the panel would cause 2-3 more windows to pop open. The panels blocked 40% of the screen and mostly had garbage I wouldn’t want to look at even if I was interested in related products. The ads were also appearing in Chrome and IE, indicating that it was something either in Flash, or an add-on app used in common with all three browsers.

At first, I tolerated the ads because I didn’t know how much work they’d be to remove, and I was pretty sure they weren’t outright malware. They were getting annoying, though, so I went to CNet’s Download site and grabbed a copy of ADBlock Plus. This worked relatively well for a couple of weeks, blocking both the floating panels and the pop-up windows. But, I was noticing that the number of sites with floating panel ads was gradually increasing over time and the pages were loading slower, so I went to the ADBlock site to try to get a newer update. There, I learned that the author wasn’t supporting it any more (at least not for Firefox).

So, I needed some other alternative but I was still too lazy to search for it. Three things ultimately tipped me over the edge. 1) Realizing that the ads were somehow related to my not being able to use the Gakken Pocket Miku setup webpage anymore. This page only works under Chrome, and it’s the only way to add new vocabulary to the “singing keyboard”. Without it, the keyboard is a very limited toy. With it, you can update the keyboard with up to 15 lists of any Japanese phonemes you like (up to 56 characters each). 2) ADBlock was preventing me from running Skype (I had to disable it to get past Skype’s splash screen). 3) I couldn’t use MediaFire for hosting my blog photos (again, I had to disable ADBlock to be able to copy the photo URLs for embedding in my blogs). The odds that the pop-up apps were interfering with everything were pretty high, but I wanted to make sure.

I decided to go to again and see if they had an article specifically written for evaluating the best ad blockers, or detailing how to remove floating ads. For some reason, they didn’t. Ultimately, I ended up signing on to CNet’s forums and asking there. One person replied, pointing to a forum message entitled How to remove PUPOption (PUPS = “Potentially Unwanted Programs”).

It’s a fairly long list of instructions that I won’t duplicate here. Suffice it to say that the instructions worked and I don’t have the floating ads or pop-up windows anymore. YAY! What really made the difference was running ADWCleaner. It found over 20 offending items, including a few add-ons, and lots of cookies. I was concerned when it started messing with my registry, but that turned out ok. I suggest backing up your files before you run ADWCleaner, just in case the registry does get damaged.

I didn’t try using the other suggested programs, like RKill, SuperAntiSpyware, Malwarebytes or Unhide, so I don’t know how well they work or if they’re necessary.

In any event, not only don’t I have the floating ads in any of the 3 browsers, my webpages load faster, and I can access the Pocket Miku webpage app again. One of the instructions in the CNet forums page is to look really closely when doing update installs for any third-party software that will also automatically install and to uncheck the boxes, because this is where the PUPS often get introduced. I can’t say that Flash Player itself caused all my problems, but it probably did have a third-party app that WAS responsible for it. I’ll be more careful about unchecking those extra boxes in the future.

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