Ads can be beneficial because both the service provider and the website that displays them earn money. Simultaneously, the creator of the ad campaign gains traffic and, ultimately, sales. And then, there’s you, the user. Based on your past search and browsing history, you can discover products or services you didn’t know you need. Unfortunately, ads can also range from annoying or intrusive to abusive, and lure you into making purchases while you’re vulnerable. When coupled with trackers, they can also follow you around the Internet, and deceive you into downloading malware. That makes learning how to block ads with ExpressVPN is essential.
Can ExpressVPN block ads directly?
No, ExpressVPN doesn’t have a built-in ad, tracker, and malware blocker feature. This is strange, since many VPN services we reviewed do. Notable examples include NordVPN, CyberGhost VPN, Private Internet Access, and Windscribe VPN.
1. You might not need to block ads with ExpressVPN
Adding ad-blocking capabilities into ExpressVPN apps would’ve been nice. Yet, despite being a leading VPN provider, they haven’t. Here are 2 main reasons ExpressVPN didn’t implement ad-blocking:
1. You’re already protected
By hiding your IP with a VPN, you gain sufficient privacy protection. The AES-256-bit encryption means your traffic between the VPN server and the website that displays ads is gibberish without a decryption key. So, even if they track your browsing and search history, they cannot pin it back to your real Internet connection and thus your identity and location. Also, ExpressVPN uses its own DNS servers with both the most commonly used security protocols, proprietary Lightway, and open-source OpenVPN protocol (TCP/UDP). Those DNS servers have filters that check the list of malicious websites before translating their IP address into a domain name. Simultaneously, they’re configured to only display safe non-intrusive ads.
2. It requires frequent updates
Consistently blocking ads with ExpressVPN requires a regularly updated database. Google Analytics, for example, updates the method of displaying ads often. Sometimes, the change is radical. At the same time, those with malicious intent are constantly working on workarounds and new techniques to circumvent anti-ad, tracker, and malware measures. Even services whose sole purpose is blocking these elements often take hours, if not days to adjust to the changes and fix bugs and exploits. It would take ExpressVPN much longer to do the same, and the result likely wouldn’t be on par.
2. Block ads with ExpressVPN by installing browser extensions
For the reasons mentioned above, ExpressVPN recommends installing the following extensions:
Here are ad blockers ExpressVPN recommends:
A free or paid ad-blocker browser extension for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. While it’s slightly more resource-intensive than uBlock Origin, it blocks all types of ads and stops tracking cookies. It also comes with a built-in Acceptable Ads (AA) filter, and a whitelist to manually exclude websites you trust.
2. Anti-tracking tools
ExpressVPN suggests you install the following anti-tracking utilities:
- Privacy Badger is compatible with Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. It will stop third-party cookies from following you on the Internet.
- Ghostery does the same thing as Privacy Badger, except that it has a prettier interface and is also available on the Microsoft Store. Also, you must manually choose which trackers to block.
3. Site security
Although your Internet traffic is encrypted, the data you enter (login credentials, sensitive data, personal/payment information) is vulnerable on websites that use HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). To transition to a safe version of the website that uses HTTPS (HTTP Secure), ExpressVPN recommends:
It redirects you to an encrypted version of websites you open, but you must set up rules manually. It’s available for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox, and even comes pre-installed with the ExpressVPN browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome.
It does the same thing as HTTP Everywhere but is better suited for beginners. However, since you don’t need to add rules manually, the extension can sometimes force you to visit broken HTTPS versions of websites.