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What Is a Browser Hijacker?

A browser hijacker makes changes to a user's Internet browser without his or her permission.
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  • Written By: Larry Ray Palmer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A browser hijacker is a form of malware that takes control of the victim's Internet browser settings. It might change the home page settings to a different web page than what the victim had set in the browser's options panel. A browser hijacker might also force the victim to visit a specific website, might display an error message or might download additional malware and spyware onto the victim's machine.

Although some software with the ability to take control of browser settings is completely benign and alerts the user to its presence, such as the option to make a specific search site the homepage when installing an instant messenger program, browser hijacker software is considered to be a threat because it usually takes control of the victim's browser without announcing itself. The victim might discover that his or her computer has been compromised when he or she attempts to visit a website online and is suddenly inundated with advertisements or other annoyances. In some cases, a search engine hijacker is included as well, which defaults all search terms to the hijacker's own search engine.

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A browser hijacker presents an additional threat to the victim's personal data security. After a browser hijacker has control of the browser, it can direct the victim to spoof pages that trick or intimidate the computer user into giving personal information, passwords and logins. A common example of this type of browser hijacker is encountered when hijacking malware intercepts a user's path while he or she visiting a website and immediately pops up a warning box that gives a message such as "Warning: Your computer may be infected. Fix it now?" Although these warnings might seem genuine and can be a little unnerving, they should be recognized as an indicator of the presence of a browser hijacker or other malware on a user's system.

The best cure for infection by a browser hijacker is prevention. Users should always read the terms of service that come with any software that has been downloaded. System resources and processes should be monitored to detect abnormal activity. Software should be downloaded only from trusted sources.

If it is too late for one to avoid being infected by browser hijacking malware or spyware, he or she should temporarily disconnect the computer from the Internet. This will prevent the hijacker from gaining further access to sensitive files before the problem has been fixed. In these cases, the use of a browser hijacker removal software to delete the malware and spyware from the machine is highly recommended.

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