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]

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.

Conduit Search[edit]

Conduit toolbars have been identified as Potentially Unwanted Programs by Malwarebytes[2] and are typically bundled with other free downloads.[3][4] These toolbars modify the browser's default search engine, homepage, new tab page, and several other browser settings. [5]

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. Conduit is associated with malware, spyware, and adware, as victims of this hijacker have reported unwanted pop-up and in-text advertisements.

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.[6]

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.

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.[7]

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.[8] 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. [9]
  • 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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).

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.[15]

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 stubborn browser hijacker, called a virus, but not actually a virus, 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. Moreover, it can stay safely from Avast, AVG, Norton, and many other antivirus software programs. To get rid of Tuvaro, you must first get rid of the unwanted programs that cause Tuvaro hijacking through Control Panel, run AdwCleaner or Junkware Removal Tool, then MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware, and then revert your browser settings.

[16]

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.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Browser Hijacking Fix & Browser Hijacking Removal". Microsoft. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "PUP.Optional.Conduit removal instructions". Malware Removal Guides. 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  3. ^ "Bundle Your Software with a Custom Toolbar & Start Making Money". Conduit Ltd. 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  4. ^ "Download me II—Removing the remnants of the Web’s most dangerous search terms". Ars Technica. 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  5. ^ "So long, uTorrent". First Arkansas News. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Remove Conduit search." Botcrawl February 4, 2013
  7. ^ "Browser Hijacker". MySearchCorp. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "How To Remove The MyStart By Incredibar Browser Search Redirection Virus (Search.Incredibar.com)". Botcrawl.com=10 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Remove the MyStart By Incredibar Search Redirection Virus. Botcrawl December 25, 2012
  10. ^ Wilson, Remove-PCvirus. "Remove Nation Zoom". remove-pcvirus.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Getting rid of Babylon Jay Lee, The Houston Chronicle, July 25, 2012
  12. ^ Download.com sorry for bundling Nmap with crapware The Register December 9, 2011
  13. ^ A note from Sean regarding the Download.com Installer Download.com December 7, 2011
  14. ^ Kiguolis, Ugnius. "Remove Qvo6". 2-spyware.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Remove Snap.Do Virus. Botcrawl August 13, 2013
  16. ^ Get Rid of Tuvaro Virus. DooFix
  17. ^ Mook, Nate (2006-09-06). "EarthLink Criticized for DNS Redirects". betaNews. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 

External links[edit]