What Is Browser Hijacking & How To Prevent it | Guide

March 27, 2019 by Shigraf Aijaz

Browser hijacking is a nasty web malware that can change the way a browser works without your permission. The hijacker can make your browser to use in a different way such as advertisements might appear that provide financial benefits to the maker of browser hijacker.

The most dangerous kind of browser hijacker is the installation of ransomware which is malicious software; it turns all your data into an encrypted form and demands a considerable amount of money for decoding.

You may experience browser hijacking in different ways such as:

• The default home page changing.
• Default search engine gets changed.
• There is an appearance of unwanted pop-ups.
• Page redirects.

These are some of the examples of what browser hijacking may look like or come off as. Now To truly understand what browser hijacking is allowed me to shed some light over it:

What is browser hijacking?

Browser hijacking is basically when a user’s browser gets modified without his permission. It is whenever software meddles with your original browser settings and edits them.

The modification may be in the form of:

• Redirection towards unknown web pages occurs.
• Changes in the homepages and default search engine.
• Loading of website pages becoming slow.
• Unwanted add on.
• The appearance of pop up and alerts and various kinds of advertisements.
• Addition of new toolbars.

It is an adverse action and is carried out without the user’s permission. You don’t purposefully ask for the changes or get the software to change them.

Although seemingly innocent, this act can definitely cause some serious problems.
Browser hijackers are hired to spread malware or steal information.
This malware method is often termed as browser malware virus as it mainly redirects.

How does browser hijacking occur?

A trickster comes up with various tricks to hijack people’s browser. Innovative ideas are the key to getting done with the hijacking process. Some of the most common methods of infecting a system with malware are as follows:

1. Implanting a malicious JavaScript Into an admissible website

The chances of a malware author having a popular website with a high number of visitors are highly unlikely. So what the hackers do is that they place the malware into an existing legitimate site that has a lot of visitors.

Often times these malware injectors are website hackers. If not that they have the means of purchasing exploited websites from various services such as Hacking-as-a-service Service. They then station their malware on those websites.

2. Redirecting people to sites that do drive-by downloads

Drive-by downloads are the malicious activities performed by the downloading code, usually the JavaScript, on your browser without your consent.

The hackers design different malware for different devices. One the hacker identifies the device of the user it works on infecting it.
It may do so by using phishing emails or by downloading toolbars or malicious applications.

Browser hijack alerts!

Browser hijacking is generally a very sneaky matter. The hijackers are crafty with their work which is why it is better to stay vigilant!

8 symptoms from which you can identify if your browser is hijacked:

1. The default search engine of your browser gets changed.
2. You start getting unnecessary pop-ups or ad pop-ups which are not a part of the websites you are opening up.
3. Navigating to some web-pages like home pages of security software becomes difficult or impossible.
4. There is an addition of new toolbars.
5. The home page gets changed to a different one.
6. The web pages start getting considerably slow or sluggish.
7. Bookmarks or Favorites you did not add-up start appearing.
8. You start getting redirected to unknown web pages.

Examples of browser hijacking

In spite of the preventive measure at times the browser hijacking does occur. Here are some of the cases of browser hijacking:

1. Babylon toolbar

This toolbar came up in 2011. It was a form of adware which displayed ads in the search results and earned money from them. furthermore, it also collected the user’s data and gave it to the advertisers to make more money.

It was created by the CNET websites download.com without the knowledge of developers. The software changed the search engine to Babylon.com and slowly spread onto other browsers on the system.

2. Conduit

Conduit is one of the most abominable browser hijack available. It may seem innocent, but it changes every single of the default browser settings.

It is bundled software as it comes with many other download tools called the Conduit Search Projects. These tools although may seem harmless actually changes the default settings and then further locks out the administrator too.

This hijack works as adware as well as spyware. It displays pop up advertisements as well as collects confidential and personal data of the user.

This malware is particularly scary to deal with as it installs itself within the OS making it difficult for the user to boot it.

3. MyStart.IncrediBar Search

This browser hijack is by far one of the deadliest browser hijacks. Apart from working as adware and spyware it also works like a virus as well as a worm.

It uses the toolbar usually present in Firefox to redirect users towards MyStart websites. Mostly the website mystart.incredibar.com is used. This redirect minimally slows down the system and sucks up all the resources.

This hijacker is particularly nasty as it can’t be uninstalled. Once the user tries to uninstall it embeds itself further into the windows by making registry changes and installing new files.

The only way out is to completely clean the windows.

6 Steps To Prevent Browser Hijacking

If your web browser has ever been hijacked, then you must know the difficulty of dealing with its removal and resetting your browser, back to normal.

It means that you are not redirected to the malicious websites that hijacking software directs you. Thus, to avoid the later complications of browser hijacking, one must already be prepared for it.

One way is to use secure browsers as it has the “private mode of browsing” which takes all the activities through a separate channel.

However, following are some prevention which will protect your browser from hijacking:

1. Update Operating System and Browser

One of the best prevention from browser hijacking is to keep your browser updated with the recent security features. The authors of browser hijacking look for any vulnerability in the system that they can exploit.

Today browsers have introduced anti-hijacking elements in the browsers which keep your browser software up-to-date.

2. Google safe browsing

Google crafted this feature in 2006. This tool is continuously on the check of URLs. It primarily works to protect users from opening up a malicious website.

If a user opens up a link that happens to be malicious Google sends out a prompt. This prompt is a warning for the users to not open up the link as it is malicious.

Though this came out in 2006, this list is frequently updated by Google.

3. Disabling JavaScript

You need to disable JavaScript in your browser. JavaScript can read typed stuff such as passwords, it can also find out relevant information like your IP address and can install other scripts without your consent.

Thus, it’s  better to remove by default JavaScript. Besides, you should use Script Block for Chrome and NoScript extension for Firefox to disable or enable it by the website.

4. Don’t Click that Suspicious Link

Some links are present in your emails you receive, messages you get and the websites you visit, not all of them are safe.

Always stay vigilant when you receive an email from an unknown sender, do not open it until you know its legitimate because you might end up creating a problem for yourself.

5. Installation Steps

The browser hijacking software comes with the legitimate application. Hence, it is essential that you must read the agreement before you download. Developers of software that hijack your browser will permit you to uninstall the software after the downloading process.

It has seen that mostly hijacking software does not leave your system untouched even you have removed. It means that your browser remains hijacked until you manually reset it to Pre-hijacked default settings.

6. Install Antivirus

Install a good antivirus and keeping it up-to-date with the latest patches. Some antivirus offers real-time protection that looks for changing key configuration files. These files are in association with the browser.

The software warns you whenever you are downloading attempts to change your browser settings. It may also offer you a chance to stop the changing of these settings. Adding a Second Opinion Scanner can work as a second line of defense with your anti-malware protection detail.


If you are facing the browser hijacking for the first time, then it might be scary. You can prevent browser hijacking by taking the correct steps. The provided guide is perfect for staying safe while browsing the Internet.

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