Were you redirected to a website you did not want to visit? Are you constantly bombarded with pop-up ads? Is your homepage different and you didn’t change it? You might be the victim of browser hijacking. It’s not only annoying; it could also damage your computer.
Yet another type of cyber-attack, browser hijackers grab your sensitive online data, like passwords or financial details and introduce malicious programs.
How Browser Hijacking Works?
Browser hijacking is unwanted software that enters your device’s system and changes your web browser settings.
They can go unnoticed while you install software that appears to be safe, such as browser toolbars or add-ons. Another common tactic is when attackers try to trick you into allowing additional downloads when you accept a site’s terms and conditions. Attackers can also trick you into installing malware that will further create more problems, and you end up with a severely damaged PC.
Malicious apps or programs can come as a technique based on bundling. For instance, while you download an app, additional and totally useless software is included in the installation process without any indication of it during the setup. Regardless of the method, the possible results of browser hijacker include:
- overpacking your browser with unwanted advertising;
- replacing a home page or research page (with one the hijacker wants you to access);
- grabbing banking information and other sensitive data;
- recording of all your internet activity.
Here’s a list of a few browser hijackers on Windows:
- Conduit Toolbar – a web publisher allowing users to create custom toolbars, web apps, and mobile apps for free.
- Coupon Saver – a rogue application claiming to save money by providing discount coupons for various online shops; updates of the application promote fake search engines.
- GoSave – a browser add-on guaranteeing to save time and money by displaying special offers and discounts while browsing shopping websites.
- Babylon Toolbar – a free translation software add-on covering dictionaries and glossaries.
- CoolWebSearch – a software that gets installed on your PC while you download other free programs or apps.
- RocketTab – a bundled software that gets into your system while you download other free programs online.
- Ask Toolbar – a search tool bundled and offered along with other products during download or installation.
Common browser hijackers on Mac:
- Bing Redirect
- Yahoo Redirect
- Search Baron
- Safe Finder
All of these are fake search engines that redirect your home page of the browser due to a malicious program or browser extension installed on your Mac.
Common Ways Browser Hijackers Get on Your Computer
The unwanted software can infect your PC through several means. Here’s where browser hijackers tend to hide:
- Shareware – commercial software initially shared for trial use at little or no cost with usually limited functionality.
- Freeware (not free software) – any copyrighted software, application, or program that may be freely downloaded, installed, and used.
- Adware – software that displays advertisements for products or services to entice you to click or make a purchase.
- Spyware – monitoring software that gains access to your device without your knowledge and records your every move.
- Browser extensions – special toolbars that you can add to your browser for a simpler online navigation, letting you control how websites load and behave.
Is a Browser Hijacker a Virus?
A virus is a program that can infect another program or active content data file (such as Word Documents), because of running or opening an infected program or document.
Although not typically referred to as a virus, a browser hijacker can be included in the virus category, as it is also called a browser redirect virus. Since it redirects the browser to other, usually malicious website, is more similar, and often compared with a malware infection.
How to Tell if You Have a Browser Hijacker
Here are the most common indicators of browser hijacking:
- Your mouse starts moving on its own.
- Passwords for your online accounts no longer work.
- You start seeing several pop-up ads on your screen asking you to buy a product or visit a website.
- Your online searches redirect you to sites you didn’t plan to visit and don’t make any sense to you.
- You notice unfamiliar charges or payments on your credit card.
- Sensitive or confidential data is missing or misplaced.
- Scareware pop-ups are saying you need to take immediate action to update your virus protection or purchase a new one.
- You receive a message on your screen demanding payment for your system to work again.
How to Get Rid of Browser Hijackers
- Uninstall Unwanted Programs. Scan your Control Panel for suspicious programs and/or ones you do not recognize.
- Install Antivirus Software. Aside from protecting your devices from malicious threats, antivirus programs will “search and destroy” any potential threats. CyberGhost Security Suite for Windows not only provides you with reliable antivirus software, but also a VPN.
- Reset Your Browser to Its Default Settings.
- Open Chrome.
- Click on the 3-dot menu and choose Settings.
- Scroll down and open Advanced.
- From the bottom, click Reset.
- Open Mozilla Firefox.
- Click on the 3-line menu and open Help.
- Select Troubleshooting Information.
- Click Refresh Firefox.
- Start Edge.
- From the 3-dot menu click Settings.
- Choose Clear Browsing data and then Choose what to clear.
- Click Show More and check all the boxes.
- Click Clear and restart Edge.
If your homepage or search engine was changed without your permission, here is how you can restore it:On Safari:
- Go to Safari > Preferences.
- Click General.
- From the Homepage section, change it back to your preferred address.
- Check Safari Extensions.
- Click the Extensions tab on the toolbar.
- Click on the extension name to view details, permissions, or uninstall it in the large view box.
- Go to Chrome > Preferences.
- From the settings page, find the Search engine section.
- Choose Manage Search Engines.
- Click to delete any search engines you do not wish to have.
- Back from the main settings page, go to On Startup section.
- Choose Open a specific page or set of pages, and enter the homepage address you want.
- To manage Chrome extensions, go to ⋮ > More Tools > Extensions.
- Click Details > View in Chrome Web Store every extension and check their sources.
You will also need to check all recently modified applications. In System Information, you can see all your applications, including hidden ones that run in the background.
- Go to Apple Menu > About This Mac.
- Click Overview and select System Report.
- Expand the Software section, and then click Applications.
- From the ‘Last Modified’ column, arrange applications by the latest date of modification.
- If you find any active malware, copy its location address.
- Go to the specific folder address and remove the malware.
How to Prevent Browser Hijacking
Browser hijacking can be prevented very easily. Here are 5 tips on how to do so.
1. Don’t Forget to Update Your Security Software
Disregarding software updates is generally not a good idea. Aside from continuing to be protected from viruses and bugs, these updates prevent browser hijacks can can further expose your sensitive data.
2. Beware of Free Programs
You know the saying ‘there is no such thing as free lunch?’ Well, the same way goes for free programs. Free programs may hide malware or other threats. Always double check to make sure the free program is a legitimate one before downloading it.
3. Avoid Suspicious Websites at All Costs
Check URLs for any misspellings as this is a sign of a malicious or fraudulent website. Also, make sure the connection is secure and look for the S in HTTPS. When in doubt, don’t click.
4. Clear Your Cookies
Browser cookies are not good for your digital privacy and security. Some cyberattacks can hijack cookies and enable access to your browsing sessions.
Try out CyberGhost Cookie Cleaner – a 3-in-1 cookie, history & cache cleaner! It clears any website storage and will improve the speed of your browser.
5. Look Out for Any Phishing Scheme
Don’t click attachments or links from unknown senders. Suspicious email links and attachments could take you to malicious websites created by cybercriminals.
How do I get rid of browser hijacker in Chrome?
To remove browser hijacker in Chrome, remove suspicious Google Chrome extensions, fix the Google Chrome shortcut target, change the homepage and your default search engine.
How do I get rid of browser hijacker in Safari?
To get rid of browser hijacker in Safari, uninstall any extensions you don’t recognize, set your homepage to your preferred start page, and set the engine you want to use.
What is a browser redirect virus?
A browser redirect virus is when your browser is redirected to a site other than the one you want to access, such as tech support scams, unwanted programs, advertisements, or dating sites.
What is a control hijacking attack?
A control hijacking attack is when a cybercriminal takes control of your device and manipulates the entire execution flow of a running program. The attacker usually exploits a program error or a memory vulnerability.
What is blind hijacking?
Blind hijacking is a type of session hijacking in which the attacker does not see the target host’s response to the sent requests; in a man-in-the-middle position, the cybercriminal adds malicious injections in data packets but is blindly guessing the victim’s and the server’s responses. Blind hijacking can be used to change or reset a password.
Did you ever deal with an unexpected browser hijacker? What did you do to remove it?
Let me know in the comments below.