You launch your Web browser, but your homepage has changed. You type in a Web address, but the browser sends you to a site you're never heard of. Whenever you try to go to a new destination, it sends you right back, sometimes covering your screen in pop-up ads. If this sounds familiar, you've got a serious problem on your hands. It's called browser hijacking, and it's something you need to fix right away.
What is a Browser Hijacker?
A browser hijacker is a type of computer virus that targets your Web browser. Some hijacking programs try to make you click on bogus pop-up ads that spawn incessantly. Others are purely malicious, designed only to cause trouble. Infected browsers sometimes redirect you to pornographic websites, while others may take you to fake search engines. Even if a site looks legitimate, if you didn't tell your browser to go there, don't click on anything.
How Did I Get Hijacked?
Browser hijackers disguise themselves in various ways. Pop-up ads are a common infection point for browser hijackers, which is why virtually all Web browsers come with aggressive pop-up blocking protection. Ads promising free electronics or large cash prizes are common sources of browser hijackers as well. Some hijackers hitch a ride on bogus software downloads or hyperlinks. In the future, don't download files from unknown sources, and don't click on any ads that sound too good to be true.
Fake Security Software
If your browser issues are accompanied by security pop-ups from a desktop security program, be careful. Some current browser hijackers masquerade as security software, as well as infecting your browser. These programs are particularly dangerous, as they often camouflage themselves to look like a legitimate software program. Use your common sense before clicking on a security alert. If the security program is not one that you have installed or that you have ever seen before, or if there are spelling errors within the alert, don't touch it.
How To Get Rid of a Hijacker
Browser hijackers can usually be sorted out by running a full system scan with your anti-virus software. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date before running your scan. Even after the virus is removed, you may need to reset some of your browser settings, particularly your homepage. If the browser hijacker made a mess of your settings, it may be faster for you to perform a clean reinstall of your browser software.