Browser Hijacking Signs and How To Clean-up
Browser Hijacking Signs
Without much ado, here are some of the signs of a hijacked browser:
- The home page is different from the one you set up manually
- The search engine was changed without your knowing
- You see a new toolbar, Bookmark of Favorite in your browser
- You get bombarded by pop-ups
- You get re-directed to pages you did not intend to visit, especially adult, or MLM websites
- You can't go to certain websites
- Your browser gets slow, buggy, crashes often.
Therefore, browser hijacking malware infiltrates your browser, changes its settings without user permission, with the aim to re-direct you to malicious websites, or track your browsing activity.
How Do You Get Infected?
Your browser may get infected when you install new software. Sometimes, a completely legitimate program comes bundled with an obligatory installation of some third-party app, which results to be either ad-ware or spyware. In fact, the legitimate program does not always justify the bundle with the necessity to earn some money - when the developer provides users with a free product, but monetizes it via bundled ad-ware. Some expensive products may also come bundled with ad-ware and spyware, which is often not even an optional install. For example, Dragon Naturally Speaking, a speech recognition suite worth more than $100, comes bundled with Common Software Manager, which poses a security threat, but cannot be rejected at installation.
Likewise, one of the easiest ways to get infected is install a browser add-on or extension. Even an official browser app store does not guarantee 100% of extensions and add-ons in its marketplace are safe. Google has recently put a lid on it, at least partly, by banning third-party app stores from installing Chrome browser extensions. Unfortunately, when it comes to these nifty helpers, which make your browsing a more enjoyable experience, often carry a piece of code that can work against you.
How to Prevent Browser Hijacking?
#1. Keep your eyes open when installing new software. Do not rush to click on 'Yes,' or 'Next' on every installation wizard's window. Some bundles are optional, and you can click 'Reject' or 'Skip this step.' Sometimes, you can navigate to Custom Installation of software, and choose software components you need, instead of installing it all.
#2. Do not install hacked software. The generous hacker may have ulterior motives for sharing a hacked version of a premium product.
#3. Use common sense when installing browser extensions and add-ons. Install them only if you must, or absolutely need to; choose reputable developers; read reviews before installing.
#4. Run regular antispyware and anti-adware check-ups, keep your antivirus database up-to-date.
#5. ActiveX settings can be a security hole. To close it, go to Control Panel -> Network & Internet -> Internet Options -> Security -> Internet -> Custom Level. Navigate to ActiveX section and check the boxes next to:
- Download signed ActiveX controls -> Prompt
- Download unsigned ActiveX controls -> Disable
- Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked as safe -> Disable.
#6. Use Sandboxie or Comodo's Sandboxed browsing to go online and clean up the sandbox regularly. This will erase any negative effects of malware on your browser, keeping the out-of-the-box browser intact. Here is our Introduction to Sandboxed Browsing.
How to Remove a Browser Hijacker?
Depending on how serious the problem is, you may want to:
1. Revert your browser settings to default ones (it varies depending on browser, but it's either in Settings or Options):
- In Internet Explorer: click on the gear icon -> Internet Options -> Advanced tab -> Reset -> Reset Internet Explorer Settings -> Delete Personal Settings -> Reset -> Close when completed.
- In Mozilla Firefox and its clones: click Menu button in the upper right corner -> Help or type about:support in browser address bar -> Troubleshooting Information -> Reset Firefox -> confirm Reset Firefox -> Finish when completed.
- In Google Chrome: Menu, three horizontal lines in the upper right corner -> Settings -> Show advanced settings -> Reset browser settings -> confirm reset to complete the process.
3. Uninstall browser add-ons, extensions and plug-ins, one by one to see the effect, or all of them altogether, or
5. Run a thorough scan of your computer in Safe Mode.
I would suggest you download the corresponding software when in normal mode, and then reboot into Safe Mode without Networking to run the scans.
Here is how you boot in Safe Mode. First, click Restart, if your computer is running. When Windows starts loading, press and hold F8 key to bring up boot options, and choose Safe Mode without networking. On some computers, pressing and holding F8 will give you a keyboard error alarm, so you just keep quick-pressing it until you are prompted with boot options window.
Here is the list of suggested emergency tools, most come with our reviews:
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
- Dr. Web Cure It!
- Junkware Removal Tool
To be on the safe side, it is recommended to run all of the above-mentioned scans and your regular anti-virus deep scan. It won't be fast, but after a thorough clean-up like that your computer will feel like brand new. At least for a while until you catch something else.
Antivirus products can no longer protect users from the increasing number of ever evolving threats. Moreover, there are substantial reasons for concern over antivirus product behavior. Therefore, users can no longer rely on antivirus alone, even if they purchased a license. Download3k recommends you combine your regular antivirus with anti-spyware, anti-adware and cleaning tools, and run a deep scan in Safe Mode on a weekly basis. Enhance your online security by browsing in sandboxed environment, as well as trying out new software in sandbox, when possible.
Finally, try not to install browser extensions you seldom use, especially gaming ones. Try to stick to reputable developers, and read carefully when you grant any app permissions, especially when it comes to gaming, such as allowing a game access your webcam and microphone.