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December 29, 2022

What is a browser hijacker and how can you remove one?

A browser hijacker, also called a browser redirect virus, is malware that impacts a user’s web browser settings and fraudulently forces the browser to redirect to websites that a user doesn’t intent to visit. Often, the websites that a browser hijacker will redirect a user to are malicious. While experiencing a browser hijacking is not ideal, with the right safety precautions users can keep their personal data safe and prevent browser hijacking.

How a browser hijacker works

Browser hijackers work by infecting devices with malware that’s downloaded via email attachment, infected files, or when a user visits an infected website. Sometimes the malware is connected to a browser extension or another software package. Browser hijacking malware can also make its way onto a device via freeware, adware, or spyware infections. In most cases, the user does not intentionally download the browser hijacker—the malware is bundled with another file or software. After the user unknowingly installs the browser hijacker, the malware infects the user’s web browser by using code to alter its activity.

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The way a browser hijacker functions depends on the intent of the attack. It can target different web browser settings and functions to achieve different results. Browser hijacker disruption can range in size, from small changes like added a new toolbar, to larger hijackings that target the domain name system (DNS) and redirect users to website that steal their usernames and passwords.

One reason that a hacker might orchestrate a browser hijacking is to generate fraudulent ad revenue. This type of browser hijacking would first redirect a user’s homepage to a search page, then redirect the search to another unintended page instead of the actual search results for a user’s query. Deceiving a user into clicking on manipulated search result therefore generates the fraudulent revenue. Another way a browser hijacker functions is to install spyware that lets a hacker steal personal data like credit card numbers and banking information. A third way browser hijackers are used is to install ransomware and lock a user’s browser until they pay the hacker to unlock it.

Signs of browser hijacking

Want to identify a browser hijacker quickly and effectively? Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Web pages begin loading slower than usual
  • The appearance of one or more toolbars in your web browser that you did not install
  • Your searches get redirected to different websites
  • An influx of pop-up ads
  • Your typical search engine has been replaced

It’s also possible that your device won’t show any signs of being infected by a browser hijacker. In this case, the browser hijacker is likely being used to spy on your activity and steal personal data. To protect against invisible browser hijackers, it’s important to take preventative security measures.

How to remove a browser hijacker

If you observe any of the above signs or have reason to suspect that a browser hijacker has been installed on your device, there are a few different options to remove it:

  • Clear your system’s DNS cache to sever connections to malicious software programs
  • Utilize a program or tool that deleted browser hijackers and modifications, or one that scans for and removes spyware
  • Reset your browser homepage settings. In more extreme cases, uninstall and then reinstall your browser.
“Although it is possible to remove browser hijackers once they’ve been installed, the best security measures are preventative ones.”

How to prevent browser hijacking

Although it is possible to remove browser hijackers once they’ve been installed, the best security measures are preventative ones. Follow these safety tips to keep your device free from browser hijackers:

  • Never click on suspicious links, including links in emails, text messages, or pop-up notifications.
  • Keep your operating system and browser patches up to date. Browser hijackers can take advantage of holes in operating systems and browsers. Regularly installing software updates make sure your security systems are operating optimally.
  • Install an antivirus software that monitors for browser hijackers and other malware.
  • Take precautions when downloading software. Thoroughly and carefully read end-user licensing agreements and terms and conditions when you’re downloading software to make sure it hasn’t been bundled with a browser hijacker.
  • Don’t run freeware programs that unpack software after they’ve been installed.

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