What is a Browser Hijacker and How to Get Rid of it?
The more time you spend online, the more your data becomes exposed if you don’t do anything to secure it against malicious intrusion and hackers.
One of these malicious intrusions, which can be very dangerous, is browser hijacking. If you want to know what is a browser hijacker and how to remove it, read this article.
What is a Browser Hijacker?
Let’s answer the big question right away.
What is a browser hijacker?
Simply put, a browser hijacker is any software you didn’t install yourself that changes the web browser settings without your permission.
This is typically done by fraudulent websites and cybercriminals who use browser hijackers to override the user’s home page and redirect him to the hijacker’s website in order to boost their ad revenue and visits, or to clog the user’s browser with pop-up ads.
How Do You “Get” a Browser Hijacker?
When you want to remove a virus, it’s important to know where it came from and how it can infect you or your computer (speaking about both biological and computer viruses here).
The same goes for a browser hijacker.
Usually, browser hijackers come with freeware and shareware software that you downloaded and installed off the Internet.
However, it can also come as a result of spyware or adware, or the attacker being able to find your browser’s weak point (all browsers have them, but see our article on which browsers are the most secure).
In any case, you’ll “know” you have a hijacked browser if:
- Your searches get redirected to unwanted websites
- Web pages load at a snail’s pace
- Advertisement alerts pop-up all the time on your browser
- You have toolbars on your browser that you didn’t install yourself
- Your browser home page suddenly changes
How to Remove Browser Hijacker
While it is annoying to have your browser hijacked, fortunately, it’s not that difficult to remove a browser hijacker.
To do so, follow these steps:
- Uninstall suspicious or problematic software, applications and add-ons on your computer
Like we already explained, a browser hijacker is an unwanted software or app that you can get when you download and install another software (usually freeware or shareware).
As such, your first step in removing a browser hijacker is to go over your programs in the Control Panel (for Windows) or Finder (for Mac) and uninstall any software that doesn’t belong there.
Hopefully, this should solve your problem, but if it doesn’t, move on to step 2, which is:
- Download and install antivirus software
If uninstalling the program didn’t work (maybe you missed a junk file or something), perhaps antivirus software will.
(Also be sure to check out our recommendations for the best anti-phishing software to protect your email.
Simply download and install the antivirus software and then run a Full Virus Scan. The AV will comb your computer for any viruses and other malware and, in most cases, it should be able to find the browser hijacker and allow you to remove it.
- Clean up your browser
Okay, now that you removed the program from your computer, the next step is to clean up your browser and that should get rid of the browser hijacker for good.
All you need to do here is delete your browser cookies (you might also want to read this article on session hijacking and how to prevent it) and cache.
For instance, if you’re using Safari Browser, to delete cookies, open Safari and then go to Safari >> Clear History. This will open a pop-up window (this one is fine, don’t worry) like this:
Now just select the period you want to clear from the drop-down list and click the “Clear History” button.
To clear the browser cache, when you have the Safari browser open, click on Safari in the menu bar and select Preferences.
Once in Preferences, open the Advanced tab (the last one, with two gears) and make sure that the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” is ticked.
This will allow you to access the Develop menu from the menu bar. Go ahead and click on it and you should see a dropdown menu like this one:
Find “Empty Caches” and click on it and that’s it.
And, to be double-sure that you got everything, you might also want to install a browser cleaner tool like CCleaner.
How to Prevent Browser Hijacking?
Would you rather spend a week or two recuperating from a virus, or not have a virus at all?
Of course, you’d want the first.
Well, just like with biological viruses, prevention is also important to protect against computer viruses and things like browser hijackers.
First of all, you need to make sure that both your OS and, more importantly, the web browser, have the latest security updates installed. This is because a lot of browser hijackers will exploit vulnerabilities in your browser if you let them.
The other, equally important thing to do to prevent browser hijacking, is to simply be responsible and careful when browsing.
- Do not download and install suspicious add-ons, programs and apps, especially the freeware ones
- Do not click on unsafe and suspicious web pages and links and be sure to verify the source first
- Use an antivirus program to scan your device for viruses and block unwanted software from it
There are a few tell-tale signs that you picked up a browser hijacker somewhere:
You are being redirected to unwanted websites
There are some new toolbars on your browser (that you didn’t install)
The appearance of pop-up ads on your browser
Web pages load slower than usual
Your browser home page has changed
A browser hijacker is a piece of software that the user unknowingly installs on their computer usually as part of another software they downloaded off the Internet.
Browser hijackers are not only annoying, but also quite dangerous to have. They allow whichever organization or individual that introduced them to your computer to:
- Steal your data and information
- Spy on you
- Display pop-up ads
Hopefully, this article will help you avoid browser hijackers and, if they do find a way in, remove them.