Yahoo blocking email access to those who block adverts

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Over the 2013/2014 new year period, Yahoo was found to be pushing malware onto hundreds of thousands of internet users every hour in the form of poisoned adverts.

Maybe you remember the headlines…

Headline about Yahoo malvertising

Today, according to BBC News and other online news reports, the company is preventing some of its web email users from accessing their messages if they have an ad blocker installed.

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

Yahoo mail block

Uh oh… We are unable to display Yahoo Mail. Please disable Ad Blocker to continue using Yahoo Mail

Why is it doing this? Because Yahoo wants to display adverts to its email users. That is how it makes most of its money after all.

And yet, blocking ads is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the all-too-common problem of malvertising.

Unsurprisingly, some Yahoo Mail users are less than impressed.

At the moment, it seems that Yahoo is blocking ad blockers as part of an A/B test – rather than preventing ad blockers for all of its web mail users. No doubt they’re interested to see what user reaction is, before considering rolling out the block on a wider basis.

Yahoo blockingOther websites are beginning to detect the existence of ad blockers and request (politely) that users disable them in order to help support the site, but Yahoo’s approach appears more heavy-handed.

If you want to stay with Yahoo, and are nervous that at some point you will be forced to disable your ad blocker to access your email, then maybe your best bet is to install an email client on your computer which can connect to your Yahoo account.

If you really want to be sure that you are treated with respect as a customer it may make sense to pay a little cash for that client, rather than expect your app manufacturer to find another method of generating income.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

18 comments on “Yahoo blocking email access to those who block adverts”

  1. coyote

    Question is how they are doing it; are they detecting scripts being blocked (like the noscript tag in HTML ?) or something else ? Because that of course would tell you how to possibly circumvent it. Also, if you use Firebug for Firefox you could (if you know how to use it and how they detect ad blockers) stop their scripts (etc.) from running. Or if not that you could make the test succeed (or fail depending on what the test is and what the flow control is like). This would be sort of like using a disassembler and debugger to get past copy protection (and other things too!) in software. Not that I have experience in anything like that; that would be completely wrong! (I don't use commercial software anyway)

    I've used it (Firebug) for other things in that way but I admit it isn't something you'd want to do frequently. Thankfully I don't use web mail and I also have my own mail server (I only use free mail services for most contacts because it's less to worry about if a contact of mine does something that might reveal my address(es)). Another thought is they might consider seeing if they can enable POP3(s)/SMTP/IMAP or some such.

    In any case, the fact they have spread malware through ads makes this inexcusable.

  2. Liberty Geek

    I am currently still able to access Yahoo's mail via web even with an ad blocker, though I rarely use webmail for viewing emails.

    For those that get the brush off from Yahoo for blocking ads, just access your mail through POP and download your mail to your device instead of viewing online via webmail. Specifically, Thunderbird is one I recommend as it will permit you to create custom mail header filters that delete or move messages that end up in Yahoo's spam folder.

  3. Andy Lee Robinson

    I think they have their answer as to the reaction of the users.
    Difficult thing to solve – everybody expects the web to be free, but the infrastructure costs a lot to run and it has to be paid for somehow.

    As an experienced user, I understand that suffering ads in return for a service is only fair – however, the average Joe doesn't see it that way, and those not tied strongly to a particular email address will just move to another service like gmail.

    I don't have much sympathy for Yahoo mail though – many scams and comment spam comes from their too-easy-to-setup unvalidated mail accounts and consequently my spam filters judge them harshly.

    1. coyote · in reply to Andy Lee Robinson

      Experienced users understand it is wise to block adverts. Experience however is irrelevant to what is fair (in anything). Your life experiences are relevant in what makes you think something is (un)fair but as far as being experienced in a field and then saying what is fair about it? It doesn't work that way.

      The fact they have participated in malvertisement says more than enough. Yahoo asks for this, has it coming to them and deserves it. It is their fault and their fault alone. If they have a problem with it they should actually fix the problem rather than try to find a workaround. The latter (which they are doing) is just stupid. If they have a problem with the results of their actions they should change their actions instead of trying to bend others to their will.

      Any circumvention to this is also their fault and they still deserve it (or as you note many will just move to another service and they will deserve that too). In short, it is very unlikely that Yahoo will improve things (for anyone including themselves) with this change.

  4. Poonjazzler

    YAHOO! can suck my fucking dick if they think they are gonna stop me from blocking adds, which is why they haven't picked me for this. The potential damage to my personal property from their desperate shitlording is not worth it. Would be pretty stupid of them to do this considering the number of available free email hosts out there. I mean, I really doubt in today's world their are people signing up for new yahoo accounts. The news articles are 99.99% copied from other places or just plain clickbait. Often times the pictures, videos are coded wrong and the links just send you back to the home page. If their actually anything noteworthy about using Yahoo outside of the fact its 2nd from last space on easiest hacked email in the world? Yahoo should concentrate on it's news articles, getting better writers, having original stories. Something worthwhile. But fuck it, far be it from me to stop you stupid slobs from putting the last nail in your coffin. Shit, I only have a YAHOO! account because I made it when I was 14, like 17 something years ago.

  5. wizard

    No problem, I use Vista.. before they can run, Vista asks if I want to bother as they will not run without permission on Vista… Look at the quality of your software, everything that MicroSoft says about how their new improved software.. is not true.

  6. owebama

    I closed my yahoo account over a year ago, and haven't been back since.
    thank God for linux and thunderbird mail. enjoy your admail.

  7. John

    Total lie! I have been using Adbloc for YEARS! My email works fine. I have had the same account since Yahoo offered free email. So this article is total garbage and if you believe it, bet you still wait for Santa.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to John

      The article says that only some Yahoo users are having their access to email block, as presumably Yahoo is A/B-testing.

      I imagine that you are one of the lucky ones who is not affected.

    2. coyote · in reply to John

      What a charming and mature response, John. For a troll (choose which kind you wish to be; I don't mind) it is actually quite impressive. Question: Did you happen to fail reading comprehension ? I just have this strong suspicion you did but perhaps once Santa visits me I can ask him – he'll know because he knows everything.

    3. craig · in reply to John

      Don't be a turd, yahoo is telling me I can not access my emails without enabling cookies. You have all of these people saying what is going on, but it works for you, so you feel the need to be a petty little naysaying twerp.

    4. jk · in reply to John


  8. Me@me

    I am one of those people. When it first happened I thought it WAS malware causing it. I was very upset to find out THIS way this is what was happening. I will be leaving it behind. I realize they think they want ad money, but there is already enough spam and other BS to deal with. I am not going to let them feed me uncontrolled malware from other sites.

  9. medwardl

    Odd I use noscript and haven't had problems with it. I know I have an exception or two for yahoo in there but the only add I see is the tiny embedded one just above where your email starts, past that one I don't see any.

  10. ghosthumanix

    Little do they realize, 'Some' see the bombardment of ads as an assault, thus
    seeing those ads, as well as those providing the ads as the enemy!!
    Would YOU buy ANYTHING from your enemies? I WOULD NOT!!!

    If YOU would like your Company, as well as ALL of it's product blacklisted in my house?
    Forcing your advertising down my throat is a GREAT way to achieve such ambitions!!!
    If I need something, Anything in my life, I will seek it out! There is NO need attempting
    to force me to like your product! I can assure you, if YOU need to advertise, I WILL NOT
    like your products, or services!!!! Irritating me with your ads is NOT the way to my wallet!!!

  11. brian waters

    so I dump yahoo and use outlook

  12. morgan

    This is the same outfit that bought and ruined Musicmatch.

    What do you expect?

    I still have a Yahoo email but don't use it, don't trust it anymore.

    If I went to a site and requested a reminder to send my password, it might be days before that email got through. So piss on Yahoo. Not sure why I keep the one I have.

  13. Deirdre Johnson

    I have done everything to disable the ad strip, with no success. Using Yahoo for one hour, poses a health problem. I have a seizure disorder, and the ads changing every 15 seconds on the right-hand side of the monitor, have become a seizure trigger. During the diagnosis of seizure disorders, the technician puts the patient through a battery of tests, one of which is the machine with the strobe light. The flickering of the ads on Yahoo, as they change, is similar to the actions of that strobe light.
    When one leaves the computer, within an hour, the person experiences petit mal seizures, which can be anything from a light "buzz" in the head, to stopping what a person is doing, and "freezing in their tracks" for up to five minutes.
    To anyone witnessing these episodes, they are alarming, and they will try everything to bring the person out of it, without success.
    I have been in that situation, and after the seizure was over, I asked the person I was with, "How long was I out of it/" and, "I'm sorry–I heard every word you said."
    They told me, "About five minutes."
    Five minutes of panic–that seemed like an hour–for the person who wasn't expecting anything to happen.
    One person told me to tape a double-thick strip of paper over that side of the monitor to hide the ads, but the heat from the monitor, melted the glue!
    If there's no resolution to this, I will have to find another e-mail provider that's less detrimental to my health.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.