If there is one thing that is universally disliked, it is spam. Thankfully, most large email services and providers do an admirable job filtering spam before it even gets to your inbox.
Unfortunately, a new method of sending you spam has been created that skips your email altogether and sends it directly to your browser. This new method is called web notification spam and I have started to see numerous sites being setup to utilize this new tactic.
Web notifications is a legitimate method that sites can use to send subscribers notifications when new content is available.
It works like this. A visitor goes to a site and they are presented with a notification at the top of the browser that asks them to allow the web site to send or show notifications. If a user clicks on the Allow button, the site can send them notifications of new content when it is published.
For example, if BleepingComputer utilized web notifications, you would get a prompt like the one below when you visited the site. If you subscribed, it is expected that you would only receive notifications about new content at BleepingComputer.com.
Recently, I have started to see sites promoted by adware that are pushing web notification subscriptions on visitors in a more intrusive or misleading manner.
For example, the site below states that the user must accept the notification before a video could be played. If a user clicks on the Block button, in order to not receive notifications, they are sent to another site that pushes unwanted programs or adware on them.
Another site, shown below, is commonly promoted by adult sites and tells you that you need to click Allow in order to see the content. If you click on Block, the site will display a continuous stream of notification subscription requests until you close the tab or click Allow.
If a visitor subscribes to one of these sites they will start to receive notifications that look like the ones below. These notifications will appear on their desktop above the time and will overlay any windows that they have open. These notifications will be for surveys, promotions, and other unwanted sites.
When I tested this, I received approximately 8 notification in the space of an hour and it quickly became annoying. For those who are away from their computer for an extended period of time, depending on your browser you may come back to hundreds of notifications waiting for them.
For the spammers, this system works well as there is no way to filter them out unless you remove the subscription.
Thankfully, removing notification subscriptions is relatively easy.
For Chrome, you can go into the Settings and search for Notifications. click on Content Settings, and then click on Notifications. Chrome will display the list of sites you explicitly blocked and the list of sites you are subscribed to or have allowed notifications to be sent from.
To remove a notification, simply click on the dotted vertical line next to a site and select Remove as shown below.
For Firefox users, you can use a similar method. Just go into Options, search for Notifications, and then click on Settings next to Notifications to access the list of subscribed sites and remove them.
Once you remove the subscription, the notifications from these sites will no longer be displayed.