If you notice that any of your browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome browser suddenly start to behave erratically, it could very well mean your browser has been hijacked. Browser hijacking is usually an attack by malicious software that changes your Web browser’s settings.
Here are some symptoms that could help determine if your browser has indeed been hijacked:
Browser home/start page changed to an unwanted site
New favorites, bookmarks, toolbars, or desktop shortcuts that you did not add
Typing a URL into the address bar and being taken to some other URL instead
You default search engine has been changed
Inability to access certain sites, particularly anti-malware sites that might help you
Your Internet security settings have been lowered without your knowledge
Endless pop-up ads for things you don’t want to see
Sluggish computer response; malware often slows your whole system down
How does one’s computer get hijacked? Sometimes hijacking can happen as a result of unpatched software components that have been exploited by hackers to initiate a “drive-by download.”
If you have determined that your browser has been hijacked, shut down your browser immediately. If you cannot close the browser in the usual way, press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to access Windows Task Manager, highlight your browser’s file name in the Processes column (iexplore.exe, firefox.exe, chrome.exe) and click “end process” to close the browser.
It is because of browser hijackers that it is very important to have real-time anti-malware defenses in place at all times. If you’re already running internet security software, obviously it didn’t protect you from this particular menace. If the problem happened recently, System Restore can restore the system back to its original state to get you back to normal.
Other solutions would include MalwareBytes Anti-Malware which would run a full scan on your system and delete any suspected malware that it finds.
Restart your computer, open your web browser and put things back in order. Review and reset your home page, security settings, privacy settings, etc. Delete any unwanted favorites/bookmarks. Review the list of add-ons and uninstall any that look unfamiliar.
Because hijacking malware is also likely to play with registry settings, you may want to install Registry cleaners that can help remove bad registry entries and close security holes in the registry.
The HOSTS file is another favorite target of hijacking software. The HOSTS file contains pairs of host names and their associated IP addresses. When a host name listed in the HOSTS file is requested by your browser, Windows directs the request to the associated IP address instead of looking up the host name in the DNS system. Hijack software may add entries to the HOSTS file so that certain sites are blocked or redirected to unwanted sites.
The HOSTS file is located at
C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS\ETC\HOSTS and can be opened with Notepad or your favorite text editor.
On Vista or Windows 7 you may need to open your text editor by right-clicking, then select “Run as Administrator”. Make sure the HOSTS file includes ONLY the line “127.0.0.1 localhost” and any other pairs that you know you added yourself. Delete unwanted entries and save the HOSTS file.
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