Programs that take over, or hijack, your browser are among the most irritating problems on the Internet. These programs usually change your home page setting, change the default search engine setting and can be somewhat difficult to remove. Knowing how to reduce your exposure to the problem means both knowing what to look for and, if your browser is hijacked, what tools are needed to remove it.
Browser hijacking is a type of online fraud where scammers use malicious software (malware) to take control of your browser. You can tell if your browser is infected several ways. Besides altering home pages and search engines, other indicators include the inability to navigate to specific webpages - usually security software and anti-spy software sites - or an abundance of pop-up ads on your screen. Your computer may also start running slowly or sluggishly.
One of the most common ways browsers become infected are when users download a program, such as a free game. If malware is present, when the install window opens up on the screen it often includes several pre-selected checkboxes. These checkboxes indicate permission to install an add-on browser search bar or permission to change your home page and search engine. If you click install before unchecking these boxes, your browser's settings will be changed and the malware will be installed. Once the malware is installed it takes several steps to remove it. You cannot just reverse the change.
Although the list of malware creators changes constantly, some of the more common instigators are:
- Conduit Search
Once you know your browser is infected with malware, you will need to remove the malware program, reset your browser's settings, and then scan your machine with anti-spy and antivirus software to make sure all remnants of the program have been removed.
In Windows, go to Control Panel >> Uninstall a Program. Look for programs you do not recognize - or have not knowingly installed. For example, if you are removing Conduit Search, it may actually be under Brothersoft since Conduit Search is bundled with it. Click on the date column to sort the installed programs to see the most recent ones installed to help figure out which program is causing the problem.
Remove the malware from your browser by resetting it to default settings.
- Internet Explorer: Go to Internet Options>>Advanced>>Reset. When you click Reset a window will pop up, make sure you select: Delete personal settings.
- Chrome: Go to Tools>>Settings>>Extensions>>Delete Conduit Apps (for Conduit Search) then reset the search engine by Settings>>Select desired search engine from drop down menu
- Firefox: Go to Help>>Troubleshooting Information>>Reset
Update your machine with the latest anti-spyware. Several quality programs exists including:
- Malwarebytes: This free program is the go-to software when nothing else seems be capable of removing malware from your computer. Rated excellent by PCmag.com, the only real downside of this software is it doesn't offer real-time protection since it is designed to be a clean-up tool.
- Spybot Search & Destroy: Rated Very Good (4 out of 5 stars) by Softpedia, this easy-to-use program is extremely effective for removing adware and malicious code. Although not a replacement for antivirus software, Spybot's immunization feature is designed to provide future protection.
- SuperAntiSpyware: Given a 5-star rating by CNet, this software is simple to use and offers everything from a quick scan to a complete scan of your system. Although not designed to remove viruses, it will find and delete spyware, malware, rootkits, hijackers, and other security threats.
Scan your machine with both antispyware and antivirus software to double check everything is back to normal. You can also use a program like HitmanPro to verify that everything has been removed and your machine is clean. They offer a free 30-day trial and a paid version.
If you want to keep your browser and computer secure you need programs in place to protect your system - this includes antivirus software, anti-spy software and a firewall. Besides keeping these programs installed and updated, other measures to take includes basic security steps like never opening email attachments from unknown sources and never clicking on pop-up ads that claim your computer is infected.