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How to block intrusive MTNL broadband ad popups in your browser?

by on June 25, 2015
 

Before I start anything, here is a rant dedicated to MTNL broadband:

Translation: “Love is just defamed for its name, instead Slow Internet is the one behind real pain!


Ha! Enough of jokes. Well, if you are living in Delhi or Mumbai for past decade or so, 90% of you will understand the hidden pain in my tweet above. MTNL is the slowest ISP of all times but since we people didn’t have any other good ISP, most of us are struck with it. I currently have a 1mbps (unlimited) line at my home which was upgraded from 512kbps, which was upgraded from 256kbps and so on, as per TRAI regulations for minimum qualifying speeds for “broadband”! Never once, I have seen any sane good plan from MTNL broadband BUT it just worked, until they decided to inject JavaScript ads in the browser which is super creepy IMHO. We recently saw ruckus on Reddit over Airtel trying to do the same thing, which compelled me to write this post despite me getting a new superfast internet connection.

Wait, what ADS?!

Well yes, I am sure if you use MTNL you must have noticed these ad popups recently coming from bottom right side of the browser window (from past few months now). Initially I thought they are coming due to some malware or something but later I found out that MTNL is injecting these ads and these are not served by any website. They are super intrusive and scary as they once popup in mid of an online transaction which pissed me off. So let’s understand what happening here!

How and Why MTNL?

MTNL is using Adphonso, which is a rich media ad company and directly connected with ISPs, like MTNL to inject ads. Adphonso describes its services as:

The stunning new technique of advertising on the connected devices, delivers Rich Media Advertisements to potential customer through networks. The solution reads the Machine Details, Browser and OS information and Customer Behaviour along with location and delivers a relevant impression. The network architecture is simple and is directly connected to the ISP and hence avoids the need to go to a publisher and buy expensive ad slots.

IMO, this is super shady stuff with strong entanglement on our privacy. How? Well, since the ad network is injecting its code onto the sites via your ISP, it is keeping a track of every website you visit/everything you browse via your browser unless it is on HTTPS (which is also subjective).

Also, it is worth noting that you will see these popups in incognito mode or any private mode of the browser as well as all your traffic goes through the Internet service provider’s DNS. So the ad network (Adphonso here) receives all packet data first before it is served to you and inject ads via javascript code in an iframe. Resulting in your privacy == screwed!

How do I get rid of these popups?

Method #1 – The Host file

Well, this is the standard procedure to block your machine from sending requests to some specific server. Just add the IP address of the server and redirect it to 127.0.0.1 (Localhost/Self). In this way, machine wont be able to fetch the pop-ups from adphonso network. To do this:

After the steps above, just clear your browser cache and reboot the system. Presto! No more annoying MTNL popup ads 😉

Method#2 – Windows Firewall Inbound rule

If you don’t have access to administrator privileges for some reason, you can always create a Windows firewall inbound rule to block the request from those IP address. This will block the IP address for adphonso.com on OS level. To do the same, follow the steps below:

After the process make sure to clear browser cache and reboot the system. You will be good to go and won’t be presented with these annoying ad popups anymore. 😉

Method #3 – Block Adphonso via Router settings

Well the methods above will work great if you use a lan cable to access internet only on your pc or laptop but since this is 21st century – The age of portable web, almost all of us have multiple devices like smartphone, tablets etc to access the web via WiFi. The Method #1 and #2 will only block ads on machine level (for respective pc and laptop), so we need something universal which will block these popups across all the devices. This method will save us from hassle of setting up an Inbound rule or make changes in Host file.

To do the same, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the router configuration page – 192.168.1.1 in web browser.
  2. Login via defacto username/password: admin (if you haven’t modified it).
  3. Navigate to Access Management > Filters.
  4. Chose URL Filter in Filter Type Selection and enable it from the radio button below it.
  5. Enter http://adphonso.com and 203.94.243.40 in URL Index 1 and 2.
    block intrusive MTNL broadband ad popups

    MTNL router > Filter URL

  6. Hit save and reboot the router from Maintenance.

But this is wrong, right?!

It’s really a shame that we, a customer, have to resort to such workarounds and hacks after paying relatively more bucks per month for poor service and bandwidth. MTNL being a government-owned service provider should not resort to such cheap means of promotion and instead should work forward to improve their infra and support team which is in ruins.

I would suggest all of us MTNLers to drop a complaint by calling, emailing or visiting the exchange in person for which details can be found here. Better yet would be to move ahead and look for other options and boycott mtnl. We do have a lot of competitive Internet service providers in Delhi now but still not as competitive as Bangalore which is a nerd dreamland(maybe, a future post with explanation eh?).

So, what’s your take on MTNL’s shady implementation of javascript injected popup ads? Let me know in comments below!


Do your bit:

One of our reader, Akshay Badhe, has made it easy for you to complaint against this shady practise to MTNL by drafting up a template. All you need to do it, copy paste the draft below, edit your details and email it to MTNL.

To,
ED / GM / PGM / CE,
MTNL Mumbai,
15th floor, Telephone House,
MTNL Road, Prabhadevi, Dadar (West),
Mumbai – 400 028

Dated: <Date>

Respected Sir,

I am a customer of MTNL for many years. For last few months I am getting ads on my Web Browser from MTNL (I have attached screen shot of the same). After further Investigation I came to know that you are:

  1. Injecting data (Ads) in the requested information, which means you are altering the information.
  2. You are collecting my:
    • Machine details
    • Browser Details
    • OS Information
    • My usage pattern
    • And my location
      All of that, without my approval or knowledge which means you are spying on my web browsing.
  1. You are collecting all my personal data for your own financial benefits.
  2. You are breaching my Privacy by collecting my search & behavior pattern.
  3. These ads are affecting my speed of access which I pay for.

I expect you to take required measures & stop these shady practices of breaching my privacy else I won’t have any other option than moving on to other ISP and would encourage all my friends and relatives to do the same.

Regards,
<Your name>
<Your number>

 

comments
 
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  • January 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this brilliant blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS
    feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share
    this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

    Reply

  • Asim K T
    May 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I used ad-block for the issue.

    Simply right clicked the ad and select adblock -> block this ad.

    Reply

  • kshitij
    May 10, 2016 at 2:26 am

    I use two profiles in Chrome browser and I have the “Send a Do Not Track request” setting enabled in one profile and disabled in the other one. I have observed that the banner ads from BSNL do not show up where I have Do Not Track enabled.

    Reply

  • vick
    May 5, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    HI
    I am facing same problem ,but its not popup ads – my browser is being redirected always – no virus,no adawares,no malwares,used malwarebytes,adware,and other tools on internet,finally i reinstall the system,still the same ads – so its ISP AIRTEL doing this – i dont know what can be done for this, but i am using dnsjumper , it stops every bad activity,now my browser is no more redirecting, …But helas,the internet speed has gone down to 6 or 7 kbps frol 70….Still waiting for a better solution
    Best regards
    Vick

    Reply

    • May 8, 2016 at 1:50 am

      Hi Vick,

      I think there is a very easy way to troubleshoot this. Do you have a WiFi connection or are you using a LAN cable? If you are also getting redirects on your smartphone connected over WiFi, then it’s quite rare and surely an issue with your ISP’s router. But, if you are only getting those redirects on your PC/Laptop connected via LAN, I think your machine is being ridden with Malwares and Browser jackers which aren’t easy to get rid off, but we can try. Let me know your findings?

      Regards,
      Jatin K Malik

      Reply

  • noobUser
    December 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Hey man
    thanks for the info.

    can u please tell me how you were able to find out the url/IP address of the source of these ads? I mean adphonso or whatever the fk in this case. I use chrome with adblock so I dont see them in browser but other places other than browser, like a game client or my phone browser etc. still shows up these ads. I tried blocking them ads by putting that IP addesss and website mentioned by you in all threee places, host file/windows firewall/router firewall but somehow its not working.
    if you can share how to find out IP/domain of where the ads come from, I can try doing that and add them to block list and see if it works.

    Thanks again 🙂

    Reply

    • December 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Hello noobUser,

      There are multiple ways actually, but the best one to use is Chrome’s Developer tools. Just follow the below:

      #1. Disable your Adblock extension.
      #2. Open a new tab and press F12 key. You will notice a console will open.
      #3. Load the page where you observe the ad pops.
      #4. Right click the ad and click “Inspect element” and check the src filed for some image url.
      #5. Switch to “Network” tab in the Dev console and enter that src name in the Filter and try to find that resource.
      #6. Once found, click the resource and in a newly open secondary panel of right, chose general.
      #7. You will find something like Remote Address:216.58.196.97:443 there. This is the address you have to block in your router settings. 🙂

      I know, it can be complicated. If you want I can add screenshots tonight, when I reach home.

      Reply

  • Alva Thomas
    November 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    To stop unwanted popups you should install pop up blocker software.It will stop phishing scam,Annoying ads,misleading message etc.Here i am suggestion you some pop blockers.popup blocker pro. ablockplus.org, popupblocker etc.

    Reply

    • December 2, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Hi Alva,

      If you read the post, I have mentioned that no Adblock extension or pop-up blocker software helps as the ads are pushed by the ISP after receiving the response from the server. So, we have to block the same on router level only. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jatin

      Reply

  • November 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Thanks, Jatin

    MTNL is my favorite but their ads, I hate it so much and it’s annoyed me a lot. The tips that you shared here looks useful and I’ll try them and hope it works.

    Reply

  • Viral
    November 29, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks Jatin. The ad used to annoy even while surfing on Mobile.

    Reply

  • Muhammad Haneef
    November 24, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Thx Jatin for the help…there was no option to reply so am writing as a separate comment…I had already gone thro’ the post u suggested…it details abt a LAN host to be added…but to block we need to add a WAN Host…I already did that as stated in my earlier comment…after restart, popups seem to have been blocked…but occasionally and rarely they do seem to popup especially on this page…otherwise its OK…so i think the problem is solved….thx for all the help & suggestions…if the problem arises again then maybe i’ll bother u again….hope u won’t mind…thx….

    Reply

  • Muhammad Haneef
    November 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Thx for the gr8 post…I’m using TP-Link TD-W8968 Router, I can’t seem to find the access management settings on its page…could u pls guide me on that…

    Reply

  • Ramesh
    November 17, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks Jatin. Those MTNL pop-up ads were really annoying, not to mention breach of my privacy by collecting personal info I enter (or surf) using any web browser. Strange that MTNL, being a PSU with no pressure of profitability, is resorting to such dirty tricks, while private ISPs haven’t yet done so.

    Reply

  • Vrushank Desai
    October 16, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Or you could just use AdBlock 🙂 Do not that the IP is not same evreytime

    Reply

    • October 18, 2015 at 12:09 am

      I think I did mention that using any plugin won’t help here because it’s is JavaScript injected ad on runtime that happens in between when ISP is fetching the data-packets and serving to the client, i.e. You! 🙂

      Reply

  • Gaurav Sharma
    October 12, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Thank you for sharing this information. Those ads were annoying.

    Reply

  • Kailash Jobanputra
    September 18, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Thanks for the info only problem that I am facing right now is that I don’t use the MTNL Provided router and instead us the TP-Link WDR 4300 router. I am not able to find where I should put in the URL Filters in the router as you have suggested,

    Can you help Jatin?

    Reply

  • Akshay Badhe
    September 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I have created a reply for them You can copy & paste them. You can find their email IDs from these links.
    http://mtnlmumbai.in/index.php/contactus
    or
    http://delhi.mtnl.net.in/gm_dgm.htm

    Date: 09-09-2015

    To,

    ED / GM / PGM / CE,

    MTNL Mumbai,

    15th floor, Telephone House,
    MTNL Road, Prabhadevi, Dadar (West),
    Mumbai – 400 028

    Dear Respected Sir,

    I am a customer of MTNL for many years.

    For Last Many months I am getting ads on my Web Browser from MTNL (I have attached screen shot of the same). After further Investigation I came to know that you are

    1. Injecting data (Ads) in the requested information, which means you are altering the information.

    2. You are collecting my

    a. Machine details

    b. Browser Details

    c. OS Information

    d. My Behaviour

    e. And My location

    Without my approval or knowledge which means you are spying on my searches.

    3. You are collecting all my data for financial benefits.

    4. You are breaching my Privacy by collecting my search & behaviour pattern.

    5. These ads are affecting my speed of access which I pay for.

    I expect you to take required measures & Stop these shady practices of breaching my privacy.

    Reply

  • Max
    July 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for the post. I am MTNL customer from thane and I am seriously considering switching to another internet service provider due to pop-up ads.

    Reply

    • July 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Yes sir. You should drop a mail to MTNL and TRAI (in cc) and openly tell them that you are switching and then you should switch. But the trouble is even Airtel is doing shaddy business by monitoring the web-browsing habit for it’s users. Maybe it’s time to boycott all suck TSP/ISPs. 🙁

      Reply

  • Rohan
    June 27, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Wow! Thanks a lot. I was annoyed by these ads. MTNL is really messing up with it’s customers.

    Reply

    • June 28, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      I know right? MTNL should not resort to such cheap methods to promote their business and should instead focus on improving quality of their services! 🙁

      Reply

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