Preventing Browser Hijacking

A natural extension to the question what is the question why? Why would someone want to force you to go somewhere else on the Internet? Usually the answer revolves around money, although in some circumstances the hackers can be doing it just for the fun of it.

Why would someone hijack me?

To understand the money involved (after all, you are not paying anything when your browser is hijacked) you have to consider pretty traditional marketing methods. Do you pay anything when you see an ad on TV? Do you pay anything when you see a billboard on the side of the road? The idea is to get the imagery or messaging in front of you and millions of others, knowing that the vast majority of it is ignored. The difference comes with the tracking technology.

Browser hijackers that are oriented towards profitably will actually keep track of how many times you have been shown the popups or false pages, and also record any clicking you do on the page. Believe it or not, usually at least one in a thousand people that see these pages (basically ads) click on them. Of those, maybe another one in one hundred will do some purchasing related to the ad.

As for hackers that do it for fun; it is basically a form of entertainment. Writing viruses, spyware, browser hijacks, and other malware can be a lot of fun to the right twisted individual. Often finding an 'exploit' in a browser can be a matter of pride for these 'black hat' hackers.

How do we make it stop?!

Good question. Too many popups can be embarrassing; they can cause the computer to slow down; they can just be bloody annoying. The number one rule is prevention. Just like any other kind of infection, the best way to fight it is to not get it in the first place. Try looking at an alternative browser. As well as the usual Internet Explorer and Firefox, there is also Opera, Netscape 8, or Smart Bro. The less percentage of the browsing population that the browser has, the more likely it is to be safe. The better the programming, the more likely it is to be safe. And despite arguments to the contrary, in general if it is open source, the more likely it is to be safe. When in doubt, check with the experts.

Once you have found yourself an agreeable alternative browser, try looking for some real time blocking software. A great program is =pasdl('ParetoLogic AntiSpyware')?, and there are plenty others that claim to do the job!

Finally, your behavior can help prevent the problems. Stick to trusted websites. If looking at adult material, consider going to big name companies, feature movie rental websites, or sticking to a retail store. While looking for downloads, try heading to good sites like download.com, or sites like this. Too much imagery, popups, adult imagery, and advertisements for cracked software are all sure signs that the web site is no good.

Too late! I already have a hijacker

You came to the right place! The first thing to do is grab a free scan from ParetoLogic, a respected antispyware security company. Run the scan, and see what it picks up.

Once that is complete, if you are still having issues, try grabbing HijackThis. It is usually meant for power users, but it can be a great source of help. Additionally, you can usually find help in the forums on Bleeping Computer if you want a hand figuring out what is going on. They will ask for a log file, and then provide some great advice.

When all else fails, it might be time to look at reformatting your computer.

Give that a shot - and good luck!

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