Putting Pesky Smartphone Pop-Ups In Their Place


It seems like they are everywhere, and in many cases, they are. Pop-up ads were once a problem limited to desktop and laptop browsers, but not anymore. Getting your smartphone bombarded with pop-up ads isn’t just annoying; it’s a security risk for you and your device. Malicious pop-up advertising–also called malvertising–is in nothing other than phishing attempts via pop-up and they’re designed to get you to take the bait. Once that happens, hackers have you on the line to steal sensitive information and download malware.

The ads use the same email phishing tactics that prey on human emotions, designed to get a quick reaction and response. Just some topics they use are alerts, notices, offers, prizes, free downloads, and software updates. With the scary success of email phishing, hackers chose the same tactics, only this time using pop-up ads.


One of the most popular pop-ups involves Amazon, while using Safari and Chrome browsers. Messages like “You’ve Won an Amazon Gift Card” have been popping up everywhere, promising a gift card you never get. If you take the bait, the only thing you get is malware on your device. Smartphone pop-ups are distributed using adware, the software responsible for automatically targeting you while online using your browser. Hackers use the adware to insure you’re as swamped as possible by their pop-ups. They know the more frequently you’re hit with the ads, the higher the probability you’ll end up responding to one of them…sneaky. Well then, it’s time to sneak back at the hackers and put up the iPhone pop-up fight.

Quick Tips

• Don’t fall for clickbait. The important thing is to not click on any links or buttons in the pop-up, no matter how tempting. Take extra care not to give out any personal information. It can be alarming to see a pop-up claiming your phone has viruses, but don’t let that push you into tapping on anything.

• Apple says: “If you’re unsure, avoid interacting with the popup or ad and close the Safari window or tab. Some popups and ads have fake buttons that resemble the close button, so use caution if you try to close a pop-up or ad. Unless you’re confident of an ad’s legitimacy, you should avoid interacting with pop-ups or webpages that seem to take over your screen.” If the ad isn’t too intrusive, you can navigate to a different site. This goes for any browser.

• Security sense: Make sure you check security settings for all devices. Ensure Safari security settings are activated, particularly to block pop-ups and warn of fraudulent websites. Check browser settings and security preferences. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > Safari and turn on Block Pop-ups and Fraudulent Website Warning.” Check your settings for whichever device you use.

• Keep smartphone OS and security patches updated. These updates bolster system weaknesses, making sure you have the latest and greatest in OS security.