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uBlock Origin gets option to block all JavaScript execution by default

New ad blocker update boosts users' privacy and security with JS execution master switch.

uBlock Origin, one of the most popular ad blockers today, has released an update over the weekend that adds an option to block JavaScript (JS) execution on a page altogether.

What this means is that the ad blocker will skip the execution of any JavaScript files on a page, and only load the page's HTML and CSS code.

This new setting is important because of several reasons. First off, it's important for the sake of security. Malvertising campaigns, traffic hijackers, and exploit kits heavily rely on JavaScript code to do their dirty deeds. Blocking JavaScript execution results in an immediate boost to a users' security, as none of that code will be able to execute.

Also: Russian election hacking hits a bump, but it's still going on CNET

Second, while online advertisers always have a non-JS version of their ads, using uBlock Origin to block JavaScript execution also prevents the execution of the tracking code that usually comes with modern ads.

Third, disabling JS execution also prevents other forms of tracking scripts, such as those used by social media companies, traffic analytics tools, and other online services that uBlock Origin might have missed via its normal blacklist.

Also: Google secretly logs users into Chrome whenever they log into a Google site

This new uBlock Origin feature has been added to version 1.17.0, released on Sunday, September 23. It's in the form of a master switch that appears in the uBlock Origin popup panel.

ublock-origin-js-blocking.png

The red cross in the image above means uBlock Origin is blocking JavaScript execution for that particular site. For users who want to disable JavaScript execution globally, for all sites, there's also a checkbox in the extension's options page.

ublock-origin-js-blocking-settings.png

uBlock Origin is bound to get a lot of new users with this update. In the early days of the Internet and up until the early 2010s, browsers came with options to disable JavaScript execution.

As the JavaScript standard developed and its features and adoption grew, it became an important part of the modern internet ecosystem and an essential part of all websites.

One by one, almost all major browsers removed the ability to disable JavaScript execution via their user interface and relegated this option to hidden configuration screens.

But in a world of intrusive advertising and in-browser cryptocurrency miners, disabling JavaScript has once again become popular among security-conscious users.

Also: How the tech behind the creepy ads that follow you around the internet works TechRepublic

Furthermore, disabling JavaScript is not as intrusive as it once was. While in the 2000s and early 2010s disabling JavaScript meant crippling a site's visual appearance, nowadays most major websites are coded with a "noscript" tag that describes how a website should look when JavaScript fails to load.

This "noscript" version of websites is what uBlock Origin 1.17.0 users will be seeing when they enable the ad blocker's JS blocking function.

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