A Browser Hijacker is an unwanted software program that takes over control of your browser without permission.
Have you experienced unusual website redirects or annoying pop-up ads?
Those are signs that your browser has been taken over by a hijacker. It modifies browser settings without user consent. Unwanted actions include: the insertion of ads or the unauthorized changing of your homepage. A user may even be taken to a certain website automatically whenever their browser is launched.
Browser Hijackers are programmed for the benefit of cyber hackers. How? Through revenue generation as a result of forced ad clicks, website visits, or stealing bank / email authentication details from unsuspecting users.
This is achieved by installing adware extension, search toolbar or keylogger software on the user’s browser.
How Do They Get Installed?
In most cases, these hijackers come bundled with another harmless software product. They are presented as a special offer or a bonus connected to a current installation, which looks confusing to an average user. Then he gets tricked into installing this unwanted piece of software.
Some browser hijackers may get installed through email attachments or torrent downloads.
These programs do not have any specific instructions for how to uninstall them, so it is difficult to get rid of them in most cases.
You might be surprised to learn that it’s not just bad apples, but also good, reputable software vendors that have a record of offering browser hijackers. Java was reportedly offering Ask.com toolbar bundled with its other services. And Lenovo partnered with a hijacker developer company to offer Lenovo Browser Guard.
How Do Browser Hijackers Work?
The main motive of a browser hijacker is to change the setting of a browser by overwriting the user’s choices. In other words, if the user’s choice for a default search engine is Google, the hijacker will force it go to Ask.com instead.
Another common hijacker operation is to redirect you to the hijacker’s desired website. This might be a scam or phishing page asking you to enter personal details so they can steal them.
Some browser hijackers may damage your registry on a Windows system.
And some of the more malicious browser hijacking programs will steal browser cookies on a person's computer in order to manipulate online accounts the user is logged into.
Browser Hijacker Examples
Conduit is a well-established browser hijacker that is installed with a toolbar. It steals confidential user data and sells it to third party companies. The toolbar is tagged as PUP / Adware by anti-malware programs.
In another example, they also developed a program called Search Protect that claimed to protect browser settings, but actually enforced its own settings that infiltrated a user’s system.
Coupon Saver is also considered a well-known browser hijacker that claims to help users with shopping by providing discounts and other good deals. However, it just annoys the user’s browsing experience by showing intrusive ads and pop-ups.
There are many more variations of hijackers presenting themselves as useful or “experience enhancing,” but are actually nothing more than a pain in real life.
How to Remove Browser Hijackers
As I said earlier, browser hijackers don’t come with clear instructions on how to uninstall them. They are difficult to remove because you cannot trace their installation path.
Some hijackers might get installed in the form of an extension or add-on for a browser, which can be removed in one click from the user’s browser settings.
One can go a step further to find if the hijacker has gained entry to the Software Programs list in the computer’s control panel and uninstall it. However, it is rarely this simple.
Even Anti-virus software often fails to detect browser hijackers on a computer.
MalwareFox has a browser cleaner module that can detect hijackers in your system. It has a massive database that tracks known malware as well as their hiding locations. So, all you need to do is just run a full computer scan with MalwareFox, and all hidden malware will be exposed.
Then you can remove hijackers with one click and get rid of them permanently.
In some cases, you may have to reset your browser to clean remnants.
- iNternet Explorer
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla FIREFOX
- Open your browser and click the little gear icon on the top right, then select ‘Internet Options’
- A box will pop up, select the ‘Advanced’ tab and hit the ‘Reset’ button
- Check ‘Delete Personal Settings’ and hit the ‘Reset Button’
- All done! Go ahead and close, then re-open internet explorer.
- Google has a separate tool called the ‘Chrome Cleanup Tool’ that we can use.
You can download it here.
- Locate the file you downloaded and double-click on it, the Cleanup Tool should launch and begin a scan.
- Once the scan is finished, google chrome will open and prompt you to reset your settings, when you’re ready hit the ‘Reset’ button
- In the upper right corner, click the menu button (the three horizontal bars) then select the ‘Help’ button.
- A menu will pop up, select ‘Troubleshooting Information’
- A new page will be displayed, locate and click the ‘Refresh Firefox’ button on the top right
- A pop-up will appear, go ahead and hit ‘Refresh Firefox’ again
How to Prevent Browser Hijacking
1. Keep an eye on checkboxes while installing any software. You may be tricked into installing unwanted software programs by opting in during the software installation process. They are generally checked by default, and users have a mindset of proceeding without knowing the risks. There is also a small tool called unchecky that can automatically uncheck any unrelated offer or software installation.
2. Carefully read your end user license agreement (EULA) documents when installing software.
Oftentimes, mentions of browser hijackware are hidden in the EULA, so when you accept the user agreements, you might be unknowingly accepting malware as well.
3. Be cautious when you install free programs.
The old expression “there is no such thing as a free lunch” applies to software products too. Vendors often hide something inside the “free” program to earn money off of you.
4. Install MalwareFox and keep real time protection enabled. It constantly looks out for any suspicious programs and prevents the installation of hijackers.
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