In Cyber Safety, The Digital World

Encountered a Browser Hijacker?

It is unfortunate when someone says this. “I started to see unfamiliar websites, my home page was changed, and I realized my computer has been hijacked!” No one wants this to happen to them. This article is a discussion of the various forms of hijacking, how they are accomplished, what causes this to happen, and a resource list at the end of free software tools to prevent this problem, check for problems, and block, remove, and repair any infected computers.

Hijacked Computers Are Used to Commit Crimes

A hijacked computer has been taken over by someone else without the user’s permission. There are various levels of computer hijacking; some are just annoying, others are severe. Criminals take over a hijacked computer to do illegal things, which is very serious.

One of the founders of the notorious website Pirate Bay, Gottrid Svartholm Warg, was recently found guilty of hacking by a Danish court; as reported, he claims his unsecured computer had been hijacked and used without his permission to commit the crimes.

A hijacked computer used to commit a crime may put the blame back on the owner or regular user of the computer. A computer owner is responsible for protecting the security of the computer to keep it from being used to commit crimes. This is similar to the need of a registered gun owner to make sure any weapons registered in their name are secured. If such a gun is used in a crime and recovered by the police, this can get the registered owner in lots of trouble with the police. Even though they are innocent, they may need to prove it.

When a computer hijacked by a criminal is done in an invisible way, this is often achieved by gaining access to the computer through password hacking (stealing) or the hijacking may be accomplished by the computer user innocently downloading something from the Internet that contains a bad software program.

Dangerous Software that Infects Computers

Bad computer programs come in the form of viruses, Trojans, browser exploits, and malware. Viruses install themselves and often create damage by interrupting the regular functions of the computer and in the worst case, steal private information, or destroy and erase files. It is very important to install virus protection software and keep it up-to-date with the latest virus protections.

Trojans are a special kind of virus program. They have the unique characteristic of staying inactive until being triggered into operation by a certain event, which could be a call-to-action issued by the malicious program that happens on a certain date or time. Computers that lack up-to-date viral protection are frequently infected by one or more viruses and Trojans. These computers are commonly called “zombie” computers.

Zombie Computers

There are millions of zombie computers at any one point in time. Singularity Hub estimated the number to be 4.5 million in 2011. They are responsible for 50% to 80% of the e-mail spam being sent. The zombie computers are also used for a Denial of Service (DOS) attack. A DOS attack is when millions of computers all try to log on to a single website at once. This overloads the system so the website is effectively shut down and cannot respond to all the requests for it.

Browser Hijacking

There is another form of hijacking, which is caused by a browser hijacker. A browser hijacker is a kind of bad software called “malware.”

Browser hijacking comes from two methods, 1) Downloading malware by mistake or by being tricked into it, and 2) Simply going to a website that has malicious malware installation properties and having a browser exploit forced to every website visitor.

What this means is, at first, a person may not notice anything at all when a website forces a download of this type of malware. There is no need to click on anything or download anything (on purpose). The download happens automatically, without permission, to anyone who simply visits the website containing the malware.

Advanced virus and malware protection software will stop this process from occurring for websites recognized to contain malware. There is a blacklisted directory of bad websites, which is used to help block websites known for containing malware. With up-to-date protection software in place, when visiting these bad websites, a warning shows to notify the person of an unauthorized attempt to download malware.

For browser hijacking to be occurring, the symptoms include slower computer operations, web browsers operating in strange ways, and the most obvious one is the home page of the browser is changed suddenly. If your home page is suddenly changed to something else, then your browser has been hijacked. There is now protection software that blocks any changes to the homepage and it notifies if any attempted home page change is made, to get further approval from the true user of the computer that the homepage should be changed.

Be warned also that a browser hijack does not have to be so obvious. There is malware that redirects regular searches to alternate websites and tries to hide its operation. One symptom of this is discovered when using a major search engine like Google or Yahoo or Bing to search for a specific thing and suddenly advertisements pop-up or websites open that are completely unrelated to what is being searched for or if they are related, they seem to have appeared without being desired. This intrusive experience is the main sign of browser hijacking.

For a hijacked browser, there are steps to take to make a browser hijacked return to a normal state of operation. To remove browser hijacker problems, one way is to use a browser hijacker removal tool that is specifically designed to get rid of these problems. To use a browser hijacker removal tool, it is necessary to run a system scan to identify the browser hijacker causing the problems, then takes the steps to accomplish the removal.

How to Remove Browser Hijacker

There are very good quality free software tools, which can be safely downloaded from the Internet and used to remove browser hijackers.

They come in the three main categories of, 1) virus protection; 2) malware removal, and; 3) system repair and maintenance.

There is software offered for sale that accomplishes these things, but for the purpose of this article, we are only recommending software that has a free version. Sometimes a paid upgrade is available or the software developer requests a voluntary donation; nevertheless the free version will accomplish the tasks needed to get rid of a browser hijacker as well as other malware, Trojans, and viruses.

To get rid of a browser hijacker take these three steps in this specific order:

1) Install and update Virus Removal software and run a full system scan

2) Install and update Malware Removal software and run a full system scan

3) Install and update System Maintenance and Repair software and run a full system scan

ONE FINAL NOTE OF CAUTION

Be very careful when downloading and installing any software. Be patient to read every screen of information presented in the download and installation processes.

Often software (even malware) is included as an optional part of the installation and the BOXES MUST BE UNCHECKED or else they are automatically downloaded. The default is to make the installation of the software, so it takes an active step to tell them NO THANKS. Just read everything carefully and you will see this trick. This is a major way that even legitimate companies force software, on unsuspecting persons, that may change search engines, home pages, and put up annoying advertisements, etc.

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