Ad blockers are a clever way to ensure your data stays safe and that nefarious actors don't harvest sensitive information about you that can then be sold to third parties. They are quite popular these days and now it seems they are also being used by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Motherboard reported this week on a new letter by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that outlines some of the federal agencies, such as the NSA and the CIA, using ad-blocking tech and requests that all other agencies do the same.
“I have pushed successive administrations to respond more appropriately to surveillance threats, including from foreign governments and criminals exploiting online advertising to hack federal systems,” Wyden writes.
He further warns that the companies that deliver online advertisements also collect vast amounts of data on their users, some that can be quite harmful if used maliciously. He also outlines how the NSA issued public guidance urging its ranks to block “unnecessary advertising web content" in 2018.
In January 2021, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published similar public guidance to federal agencies, adds Wyden. This guidance was meant to protect against both "malicious advertisements and data collection by third parties."
To some, these measures might seem a bit far-fetched. After all, aren't ads a viable source of income for some companies? But if you consider the likes of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, you can see that there is much to be worried about.
Wyden also outlines how data collected from online advertising can be "offered for sale to anyone with a credit card" and we have seen this happen in the past. It seems the intelligence community is now finally catching up to this threat and actively seeking out ways to protect itself.