Browser Hijacking: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Browser hijacking is a malicious code that changes your browser settings without your consent. The code is created by computer programmers with malicious intent, and is capable of anything from altering the home page of your browser to changing your list of favorites to include websites that contain questionable content. A browser hijacker can also block access to Web pages that offer antivirus software to prevent you from downloading it and uninstalling the hijacker's code.

The malicious code that is created to hijack your Web browser also creates registry changes to your computer's operating system which makes it difficult to change the browser settings back to their original state.

How Browser Hijacking Works

  • ActiveX Scripts: ActiveX scripts are applications that usually run directly from a Web page and automatically request permission from the user to install via a pop-up window. It is very easy for the user to accidentally click on an ActiveX download. Browser hijackers take advantage of this by installing malware into the ActiveX application which downloads itself into your browser and changes your browser settings.
  • Internet Explorer Security Holes: Browser hijackers also use Internet Explorer security holes to install browser hijacking software. This can be accomplished with or without interaction from the user.
  • HOSTS File: Browser hijackers use the HOSTS file on your PCs operating system to install an entry that connects Web URL addresses to your IP address. Whenever you try to access a specific website, it will hijack you to a porn or phishing website or any other site with questionable content.

How to Avoid Browser Hijacking

Avoiding browser hijacking is not complicated. If you remain aware and take a few simple preventative measures you can avoid this type of attack on your PC and your browser.

  • Update Your Antivirus Program: Keep your antivirus program updated. Although this seems like common sense, you would be surprised how many people have an antivirus program installed but fail to update it on a regular basis. Also, make sure your antivirus program is set to make periodic scans and check for updates on a regular basis.
  • Use Internet Explorer Security Settings: There is a variety of Internet Explorer security settings preinstalled on your browser. Most of the time these are set to a default setting that does not provide the highest security protection. Reset the security settings to block automatic pop-ups and other activity that can invite malware into your browser.
  • Use a Different Browser: Internet Explorer is one of the most popular browsers which is why hijackers target it the most. Try using a different browser such as Mozilla or Netscape.
  • Browse the Internet with Caution: Always be on the lookout for suspicious activity on the Internet. If something does not feel or look right, don't click. Also make a habit of only surfing the websites you trust the most.
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