As its name says, a browser hijacker essentially takes over your browser settings and causes your computer to develop a mind of its own. In other words, it is defined as a form of unwanted software that modifies a web browser settings without the user’s permissions.
The result is the placement of unwanted advertising into the browser, and possibly the replacement of an existing home page or search page with the hijacker page. The idea is to make users visit certain websites whether they want to or not so the hijacker enjoys higher advertising revenue. Browser hijackers may also contain spyware to obtain banking information and other sensitive data.
It is believed that browser hijackers may have originated from a group of software companies in Tel Aviv, Israel, called Download Valley, which produce software that monetizes free software. Some of the software these companies produce are adware, spyware, and hijackers.
Where Browser Hijacker Comes from?
Many browser hijackings come from add-on software, also known as browser extensions, browser helper objects, or toolbars. Often, these items may improve your experience on a website by providing interactive content, such as animations. However, some add-on software can cause your computer to stop responding or display content that you don’t want, such as pop-up ads.
How Does It Infect Computers?
Browser hijackers infect computers by numerous means, including through shareware, freeware, and advertisement support applications “deployed through the installation of a web browser toolbar or add-on.” Adware and spyware infections also result in browser hijackers, as does exploitation of various browser vulnerabilities.
Signs of Browser Hijacking to Recognize It
Signs a browser is hijacked include:
- Searches that are redirected to different websites
- Multiple pop-up advertisement alerts
- Slow-loading web pages
- Multiple toolbars on a web browser not installed by the user
Examples of browser hijackers include:
- Ask Toolbar
- Coupon Server
Removing Browser Hijacker
Browser hijackers can be fairly easy to remove. Installing and running antivirus or anti-malware software on the user’s affected system can automatically delete all associated files and modifications on the registry. Automated tools are usually used to counter persistent hijackers; however, for other variants that typically only handle browser settings, users can manually re-customize themselves. Making manual repairs to the affected system is not recommended for regular users, as risks are associated to tinkering with the system registry and HOSTS file.
Remediation and Avoidance of Browser Hijacker
Some browser hijackers are programmed to make certain modifications beyond the browsers, like changing entries on the registry. Doing so allows it to persistently remain on the system it is affecting, and removing it will be a challenge. Hijackers can also cause instability on systems and severely disrupt user experience, especially when they bombard users with ads and redirect users to sites they would not normally visit themselves.
Keeping all installed software updated plays a role in the preventing browser hijackers from getting installed. It also pays to be attentive in the installation process of certain software downloaded from third-party sites. Most hijackers (and bundled software in general) require user permission before they can install themselves. However, the current trend is that full installation of the desired program and its extra programs take place, whether users explicitly opt out or not.
As with most things, the more you research and learn about browser hijacking, the better you will become at spotting the signs and taking the necessary action.