Help! My Browser’s Been Hijacked!
We’re all familiar with airplane hijacking but what exactly is browser hijacking? It’s a type of malware program in which hackers take control of your computer's Internet browser and change how and what it displays when you're surfing the Web. Browser hijacking is so common that chances are good that every Internet user will be subjected to this practice in some form, at some time. It could result in a flood of offensive pop-up windows. Or it could deliver a malicious code that takes over your browser completely.
While there are many faces of browser hijacking, the most typical kind changes your Internet Explorer settings so that you are redirected to websites that you had no intention of visiting. Your default home page will probably be altered and bookmarks for pornographic sites could be added to your bookmark collection. The browser hijacking software may also disallow access to certain websites, such as those of anti-spyware software manufacturers, and even disable anti-virus and anti-spyware software you’ve installed on your computer.
Browser hijacking can result in more than just annoying computer troubles. Employees have lost jobs because of content and links found on their computers at work; people have been charged with possession of illegal material; and personal relationships have been severed or strained.
How do hijackers gain access to your browser in the first place? Like adware and spyware, browser hijacking software may be installed as part of freeware installation or as the result of an infected e-mail or file share. It can also occur via a drive-by download (any download that happens without knowledge of the user).
Signs You’ve Been Hijacked
It’s pretty easy to tell when your browser has been hijacked. Look for these indicators:
• Your home page or other settings change on your computer.
• You can't navigate to certain Web pages.
• Seemingly endless barrages of pop-up ads appear on your screen.
• New toolbars or Favorites are installed that give you icons and links to Web pages that you don't want.
• Your computer runs sluggishly. (Malicious software can slow down your computer.)
These warning signs can also be symptoms of other computer problems, so if you see any of them, you should investigate immediately.
If you keep your computer updated with the latest security software and updates, and practice safe Internet browsing, you're already doing a lot
to keep browser hijackers away.
To avoid contamination, experts also recommend the following:
• Be cautious about freeware downloads and e-mail messages from unknown sources.
• Update your operating system and browser software regularly.
• Install a good two-way firewall.
• Be careful not to open unexpected e-mail attachments.
• Be careful when downloading software. Use only reputable companies and be sure to read every screen as you download and install any software.
• If you have children who use your computer, discuss the websites they are allowed to visit and install parental control software.
• If a pop-up window asks for permission to install software, click “No.”