Browser hijacking

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Browser hijacking is the modification of a web browser's settings. The term "hijacking" is used as the changes are performed without the user's permission. A browser hijacker may replace the existing home page, error page, or search page with its own.[1] These are generally used to force hits to a particular website, increasing its advertising revenue.

Some browser hijacking can be easily reversed, while other instances may be difficult to reverse. Various software packages exist to prevent such modification.

The homepages that are set by hijackers are often search pages, and many of these programs are spyware programs that track personal data.

Most installers will give users the opportunity to accept or decline an offer to install a hijacker; however, the request to decline the offer is often ignored or presented in a very confusing manner. This is done for the sole reason of tricking users into installing excessive bloatware and malware.

Examples of hijackers[edit]

Astromenda Search[edit]

Astromenda Search is a browser hijacker that is related to Tuvaro toolbar.[2] It is an old infection that can be distributed bundled with other third-party applications. When Astromenda enters a system, the infection symptoms will be noticed immediately, because it affects the default browser settings. Astromenda Search is also considered as an adware that involves an ad service generating ad or commercial information and reducing users' browsing experience.[3]

Onewebsearch[edit]

Onewebsearch, referred to as the onewebsearch virus, or onewebsearch.com redirection virus is malware, categorized as a browser hijacker. Onewebsearch utilizes browser hijackers and black-hat techniques to infect a computer system and attach add-ons, extensions, and toolbars to popular internet browsers without permission, which in turn causes internet browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer to redirect to onewebsearch.com, search-, home-, or start.onewebsearch.com, related web pages, and third party domain names.

TV Wizard[edit]

TV Wizard (by Injekt) is an Internet toolbar/plugin (for Internet Explorer it runs as a BHO, in Chrome and Firefox it will run as an extension) that plugs into the user's default web browser and will modify a number of settings such as taking control of the browser's search and home pages, new tab functionality as well as DNS 'not found' redirection. Additionally TV Wizard will change some security settings of the browser that might also lower the overall security of the user's PC. This is done in order to allow the program to run uninterrupted. Should the user attempt to uninstall TV Wizard using the standard methods in Add/Remove Programs, only parts of this PUP will be uninstalled and some items such as the modified search and home pages may still point to an unwanted web page. Also to note as disclosed in the privacy policy, the program will track and report behaviors or the user while the plugin is installed including but not limited to the URLs and web pages the user visits as well as search terms and search results the user queries.


Conduit Search[edit]

Conduit toolbars have been identified as Potentially Unwanted Programs by Malwarebytes[4] and are typically bundled with other free downloads.[5][6] These toolbars modify the browser's default search engine, homepage, new tab page, and several other browser settings.[7]

A program called "Conduit Search Protect", better known as "Search Protect by conduit", can cause severe system errors upon uninstallation. It claims to protect browser settings but actually blocks all attempts to manipulate a browser through the settings page; in other words, it makes sure the malicious settings remain unchanged. The uninstall program for Search Protect can cause Windows to be unbootable because the uninstall file not only removes its own files, but also all the boot files in the root of the C: drive.[citation needed] Conduit is associated with malware, spyware, and adware, as victims of this hijacker have reported unwanted pop-up and in-text advertisements.[8]

Victims of unwanted redirections to conduit.com have also reported that they have been attacked by phishing attempts and have received unwanted email spam, junk mail, other messages, and telephone calls from telemarketers. Some victims claim that the people claimed to be Apple, Microsoft, or their ISP, that personal information was used in some phone calls, and that some of the calls concerned their browsing habits and recent browsing history. Personal information used in phishing attempts may be associated with spyware. This hijacker virus is currently added to the official PowerISO download, and the Vuze version 5.4.0.0 update, for example.[9]

CoolWebSearch[edit]

CoolWebSearch (CWS) was one of the first browser hijackers. It redirected the existing home page to the rogue CWS search engine, with its results as sponsored links. With most antivirus and antispyware programs unable to properly remove this particular hijacker, a man named Merijn Bellekom developed a special tool called CWShredder specifically to remove this kind of hijacker. CoolWebSearch is a popular browser hijacker and is owned by fun web products.


Coupon Server[edit]

Coupon Server is an adware program bundled with multiple apps that are downloaded from Internet by users. This program will appear on PCs without users' acknowledges. Coupon Server may appear to be useful, but it can be instructive and display ads without users' permissions.[10] Coupon Server is also considered as a malicious domain and browser hijack. It will hijack your Internet browser and forcedly leads you to its evil homepage Coupon Server virus, which disguises as a legit search engine to fool its visitors and benefit its website. It will direct browser to suspicious domain, alter browser setting and finally take over the whole browser.[11]


Delta Search and Claro Search[edit]

Delta and Claro are programs that each offer a free search engine and toolbar often bundled with free downloads. These browser hijackers will redirect all searches to their own engines, to gain revenue. Automated tools are able to remove Delta, Claro, and their files, but the changes to the homepage and default search engine have to be reverted manually.

Search-daily.com [edit]

Search-daily.com is a hijacker that may be downloaded by the Zlob trojan. It redirects the user's searches to pornography sites. It is also known to slow down computer performance.[12]

MyStartSearch[edit]

The main problem with MyStartSearch.com is that this browser hijacker might look like a genuine search provider, and some users may not even realize they are infected. However, one of the best ways to determine whether something is wrong or not, is to check for commercial advertisements and various pop-ups. The presence of an adware application you are not familiar with is the first sign that something might not be right. Hence, if you see a lot of pop-ups and other types of advertisements on your search results page, check whether your default search engine is MyStartSearch.com or not.[13]

MyStart.IncrediBar Search[edit]

MyStart.Incredibar Search (Mystart Search IncrediBar, MyStart toolbar, MyStart Search, IncrediBar, IncrediBar Games-EN) is a very dangerous Internet browser hijacker, virus, and spyware that often comes embedded with many download applications and installers such as HyperCam. It is known to install itself into Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Google Chrome.[14] Upon installation, it begins to alter browser configuration settings and collect sensitive user information such as full name, telephone number, and home address.

Symptoms range from no symptoms at all (simple processor drainage) to complete system crashes so severe that the victim has to re-install their entire operating system.

MyStart uses browser helper objects (in this case search tools) and infects some users by installing MyStart search toolbar into their browser (Firefox is most vulnerable) which redirects internet users to MyStart’s websites, mystart.incredibar.com in particular. Some Internet users report that they are redirected for every search or webpage they visit.

If mystart is not removed:

  • Your computer can become malformed and operate improperly.
  • Your browser settings become corrupted and Internet usage is taken hostage by a constant redirection setting to drive-by-download websites, which can open the door for more infections, and overall cause a wide range of operating system related issues associated with Trojans.
  • Computer accesses may become blocked or locked if not MyStart is not addressed, similar to the behaviour of ransomware.[15]
  • Most of your user-initiated browsing and search is redirected to MyStart-based websites while you're infected.
  • High levels of CPU usage are due to MyStart processes, which can cause systems to crash or become malformed.

Removing Incredibar can be an extremely daunting task since there are countless different variations and most infected systems can expect to find undesirable Windows registry changes, browser configuration changes, and files with random strings that are installed into the user's local settings folders and depending on the user's operating system, its version, and even computer the location will vary from one PC to the next. In one version of Incredibar it appears to be a removable add-on, plug-in, or extension within web browsers; however, simply removing Incredibar via the inbuilt browser add-on removal process is not enough since the program has already combined registry and file installs of which re-installs itself upon a system or browser reboot.

A few virus and spyware removal applications such as Webroot Spysweeper, Eset NOD32, AdwCleaner, and Junkware Removal Tool are known to remove Mystart.Incredibar, but using these applications to do so will not revert the user to their default search engine.

Nation Zoom[edit]

Nation Zoom is a browser hijacker that changes a browser's home page to Nationzoom.com and default search provider to Search.yahoo.com.[16]

Babylon Toolbar[edit]

Babylon's translation software prompts to add the Babylon Toolbar, identified as a browser hijacker. The toolbar also comes bundled as an add-on with other software downloads.[17]

In 2011, the Cnet site Download.com started bundling the Babylon Toolbar with open-source packages such as Nmap. Gordon Lyon, the developer of Nmap, vented his anger online over the way the toolbar was tricked on users.[18] The vice-president of Download.com, Sean Murphy, released an apology: The bundling of this software was a mistake on our part and we apologize to the user and developer communities for the unrest it caused.[19]

Qone8.com[edit]

Start.qone8.com is a browser hijacker that alters a browser's homepage and default search engine. It can also slow down the victim's PC and prevent many programs from running.

qvo6.com[edit]

qvo6.com is a browser hijacker which changes the browser's homepage, and also runs strings to slow down the victim's PC. It can be difficult to remove manually, or with Internet tools.[20]

istartsurf.com[edit]

The mischievous browser hijacker istartsurf.com may replace the preferred search tools illegally. This infection travels bundled with third party applications and its installation may be silent. Due to this, computer users are usually surprised to discover the hijacker when they launch the affected Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers.[21]

Mixi.DJ[edit]

Mixi.DJ offers a media player, but also a free toolbar and Conduit-based search engine, the toolbar being the one which they will prompt to add during installation. The toolbar is a new hijacker that alters a browser's homepage. It also adds itself to the computer's registry, creates strings in the memory, and changes the icon on Internet Explorer to a magnifying glass.

Snap.do[edit]

Snap.do (Smartbar developed by Resoft) is potential malware, categorized as a browser hijacker and spyware, that causes Internet browsers to redirect to the snap.do search engine. Snap.Do can be manually downloaded from the Resoft website, though it can be concluded that many users are entrapped by their unethical terms. It affects Windows and can be removed through the Add/Remove program menu regularly. Snap.Do also can download many malicious toolbars, add-ons, and plug-ins like DVDVideoSoftTB, General Crawler, and Save Valet.

General Crawler, installed by Snap.do, has been known to use a backdoor process because it re-installs and re-enables itself every time an affected user removes it through their browser(s).

Snap.do will disable the option to even change your homepage and default search engine.

Resoft will track the following information:

  • The Internet domain and IP address from which the user accesses the Resoft Products. (location, ID, etc.)
  • Screen resolution of the user's computer monitor (display).
  • The date and time the user intentionally or unintentionally accesses Resoft products.
  • The pages the user is visiting with the Resoft Products (with or without knowledge of using Resoft products, Snap.do)
  • If the user willingly or unwillingly linked to a Resoft website from another referring website, the address of that site.

By using the Resoft Products, the user consents to have their personal data transferred to and processed both within and outside of the United States of America.

By using the Resoft website, the user agrees to the preceding uses of their information in this way by Resoft.[22]

Searchnu.com[edit]

Searchnu.com domain and the domain search-results.com belong to the IAC Search & Media, Inc. This company is known by the name Ask Jeeves Inc. It has a lot of popular domains on the web and the most famous of them is Ask.com. When something is searched in the Searchnu search engine, the search results will redirect to Ask.com and related websites. The user can still access Google, either by entering it in the address bar or by searching for it, but Searchnu is still the homepage. Searchnu has 3 "clones" which are Searchnu.com/406, /409, and /421. However, removing Searchnu is easy following instructions.

Searchgol.com[edit]

Searchgol.com (can also be found as Search-Gol) is a search engine, which may show up on the infected computer instead of the user's default search engine. The cause of it getting onto the homepage is unknown, and it is known for downloading malware onto the computer. It replaces the default homepage for no reason and without the user's permission. Numerous antivirus websites and blogs say that searchgol is a virus, but it is a potentially unwanted program (PUP) because it sneaks inside the system in a bundle with other programs and initiates some changes on the system without the user's permission. Removing Searchgol is not easy, as the victim must perform a browser restore, before removing programs related or downloaded by the browser hijacker.

Tuvaro[edit]

Tuvaro (can also be found as www-search.net) is a browser hijacker that can take over the home page and search engine provider of the infected web browsers. There are many methods that Tuvaro employs to spread into the targeted computers. It can get inside a computer secretly and change (and lock) a browser's home page and search engine provider without the user's awareness.

Trovi[edit]

Trovi is a browser hijacker that, according to a report from an anonymous user, can be found while installing Cheat Engine. It is reported to serve many ads, and hijacks the most common browsers' homepage. Manual removal is simple because in safe mode, there is no protection on the Trovi files which can easily be removed from the computer along with fixing browser settings. [23]

Vosteran[edit]

Vosteran is a browser hijacker that changes a browser's home page and default search provider to vosteran.com. This infection is essentially distributed bundled with other third-party applications. [24]

Groovorio[edit]

Groovorio.com (you can also find it named as Groovorio browser virus) is an annoying browser hijacker, which is used for promoting websites and programs that are related to it. Groovorio.com installs into computer system as a browser extension and once it gets into your browser it can take over all the major settings of all browsers.

GoSave[edit]

The ad-triggering software called GoSave is being reported to cause user experience issues because of its intrusive characteristics. Starting with installation where the victim is not appropriately informed, all the way to the absence of clear authorization for inserting ads into visited pages on the Internet – this piece of potentially unwanted code should certainly be exterminated from a computer it succeeded to compromise. The software developers who choose a free-of-charge setup model for their startups often conceal a substantial fact from their to-be customers. They mainly do monetize intellectual effort from the beginning by opting into the inclusion of third-party applications in the installation package for their tools. This type of promotion is okay, basically, as long as one important condition is kept: the affiliated software should be safe and unobtrusive. In the case with the program known as GoSave, though, the above-mentioned provision is highly doubtful. The involvement of free file downloaders into the proliferation of said adware, which GoSave definitely is, has been noted by malware researchers since this infection first emerged. Apps like Quick-Downloader, SendMyWay, Olcinium Software and File Factory are being exploited to push the malign code in a not-so-transparent manner. To their credit, these utilities mention that the user is about to get an extra item as a result of the setup, but sadly enough notifications like that are rarely paid attention to. Such somewhat covert infiltration of this threat into a PC being an event that went through, its operation instantly grows more than perceptible. It adds a plugin or extension to whichever one of the prevalent web browsers is used. It’s currently compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Important to know, the name of the troublemaking add-on isn’t necessarily “GoSave” – it varies and might be GS Booster, GS Sustainer or something else.[25]

Browser Shop[edit]

websave[edit]

Removal[edit]

Most new hijackers will not allow a user to change back to their home page through Internet Properties. Modern hijackers' settings will most likely return upon reboot, however, well-updated antispyware software will likely remove the hijacker. Some spyware scanners have a browser page restore function to set the user's homepage back to normal or alert them when their browser page has been changed. Manual removal is also a good choice to give the user a good understanding of what to do while reverting all changes.

Rogue security software[edit]

Some rogue security software will also hijack the start page generally displaying a message such as "WARNING! Your computer is infected with spyware!" to lead to an anti-spyware vendor's page. The start page will return to normal settings once the user buys their software. Programs such as WinFixer are known to hijack the user's start page and redirect it to the website.

Beginning features confused with browser hijackers[edit]

EarthLink[edit]

In 2006, EarthLink started redirecting mistyped domain names over to a search page. This was done by interpreting the error code NXDOMAIN at the server level. The announcement led to much negative feedback, and EarthLink offered services without this feature.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Browser Hijacking Fix & Browser Hijacking Removal". Microsoft. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "How To Remove Astromenda Browser virus". 2-removevirus.com. 
  3. ^ "How to Remove astromenda search by YAC PC Cleaner?". www.yac.mx. Elex do Brasil. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "PUP.Optional.Conduit removal instructions". Malware Removal Guides. 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  5. ^ "Bundle Your Software with a Custom Toolbar & Start Making Money". Conduit Ltd. 2013. Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  6. ^ "Download me II—Removing the remnants of the Web’s most dangerous search terms". Ars Technica. 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  7. ^ "So long, uTorrent". First Arkansas News. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  8. ^ "How to remove/clean Search Protect by Conduit (Removal Guide)". Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "How To Remove Search Protect By Conduit Ltd". Lavasoft. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Remove “Ads by Coupon Server” virus (Removal Guide)". Remove “Ads by Coupon Server” virus (Removal Guide). Stelian Pilic. Retrieved March 25, 2014. 
  11. ^ "How to Clear Coupon Server virus from Internet Explorer?(Uninstall Guide)". www.yac.mx. YAC cleaner. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Browser Hijacker". MySearchCorp. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "Remove MyStartSearch Browser Hijacker". www.how-to-remove.com. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "How to Remove Mystart.incredibar.com ( Mystart by Incredibar Removal Guide)". Anvisoft staff. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  15. ^ Remove the MyStart By Incredibar Search Redirection Virus. 2-removevirus December 25, 2012
  16. ^ Wilson, Remove-PCvirus. "Remove Nation Zoom". remove-pcvirus.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  17. ^ Getting rid of Babylon Jay Lee, The Houston Chronicle, July 25, 2012
  18. ^ Download.com sorry for bundling Nmap with crapware The Register December 9, 2011
  19. ^ A note from Sean regarding the Download.com Installer Download.com December 7, 2011
  20. ^ "Remove Qvo6". kaspersky.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  21. ^ Daniel, Jack. "Remove istartsurf". remove-pcvirus.com. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "How To Remove Snap.Do Browser Hijacker". Lavasoft. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "Remove Trovi Browser Hijacker". www.virusresearch.org. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  24. ^ "Remove Vosteran". how-to-remove.com. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  25. ^ "Ads by GoSave". www.soft2secure.com. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  26. ^ Mook, Nate (2006-09-06). "EarthLink Criticized for DNS Redirects". betaNews. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 

External links[edit]