A browser hijacker is defined as a “form of unwanted software that modifies a web browser’s settings without the user’s permission.” 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.
As frustrating as browser hijackers can be, they luckily aren’t terribly challenging to remove—most of the time. Utilizing various software packages is therefore essential to keep hijackers away.
How Browser Hijackers 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.
Symptoms of Browser Hijacking
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 Hijackers
Removing a browser hijacker generally means using computer virus programs that specialize in spyware removal. For example, downloading the Norton Power Eraser makes it possible to scan and remove unwanted toolbars. Norton provides the following instructions for using the Power Eraser:
- Download Norton Power Eraser.
- Click Save.
- Select the location as Desktop, and then click Save.
- To run Norton Power Eraser, double-click the NPE.exe file.
- If the User Account Control window prompts, click Yes or Continue.
- Read the license agreement, and click Accept.
- In the Norton Power Eraser window, click the Unwanted Application Scan icon.
- When Norton Power Eraser completes the scan, the results are displayed in the Unwanted Apps Scan Complete window.
- In the Unwanted Apps Scan Complete window, next to the unwanted application or toolbar, click Uninstall.
- Follow the on-screen instructions.
- When the uninstallation completes, restart the computer.
Sometimes the Power Eraser or a similar option doesn’t remove the toolbars, meaning they must be removed manually. This is done by resetting browser settings to remove unnecessary toolbars and search engines entirely. For example, if resetting Microsoft Internet Explorer settings, Norton recommends doing the following:
- Start Internet Explorer.
- On the Tools menu, click Manage add-ons.
- In the Manage Add-ons window, under Add-on Types, select Toolbars and Extensions.
- If you find any suspicious toolbar listed, select that toolbar, and click Disable.
- In the Manage Add-ons window, under Add-on Types, select Search Providers.
- Select a search engine, and click Set as default.
- Select the unknown search engine, and click Remove and Close.
- On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
- In the General tab, under Home page, enter the address of your preferred page.
- Click Apply and OK.
- On the desktop, right-click the Internet Explorer shortcut and select Properties.
- In the Internet Explorer Properties window, under the Shortcut tab, in the Target field, delete the text after iexplore.exe.
- Click Apply and OK to save the changes.
- Click Close.
As with most things, the more you research and learn about browser hijacking, the better you’ll become at spotting the signs and taking the necessary action.