Browser Hijacker: What is it and how to remove it?
Have you recently experienced strange redirects to unfamiliar websites, found uninstalled extensions and unfamiliar toolbars in your browser, or noticed a sudden influx of intrusive ads? If these issues sound familiar, you could be encountering a browser hijacking situation.
These intrusive software components often accompany bundled software installations, downloads from torrenting websites, or may even arrive through infected email attachments. It's crucial to address these signs promptly to ensure the security of your web browsing experience.
Particularly nasty hijackers include spyware, like keyloggers, to steal user data, which could result in financial damages. In this article, we'll explain how to remove browser hijackers from your device and provide tips on staying safe in the future.
What is browser hijacking?
Browser hijackers are a nasty piece of software that modifies web browser settings. They display tons of ads, redirect to shady websites to increase their advertising revenue, or even steal sensitive browsing information. Others install unwanted extensions or toolbars, as seen in the image below.
It's best to promptly remove browser hijacking malware because the websites they redirect to may host more dangerous viruses. If your hijacker includes spyware, it could grab your email or banking credentials, leading to financial fraud and identity theft.
|Browser hijacker, browser redirect virus
|Browser hijacker (occasionally coupled with adware and spyware)
|iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux
|Unwanted website redirects, browser extensions, and toolbars. A surge of ads, suspicious pop-ups and apps, general decrease in browser performance
|Compromised online privacy, risk of additional contamination, identity theft, financial losses, and reduced device performance
How do I know if my browser is hijacked?
Luckily, browser hijackers are easy to identify. Because their primary purpose is to modify web browser activities, you should look for any unintentional changes in your browser environment.
Chances are good you have caught a browser hijacker virus if you notice these signs:
- Suspicious search engine. A browser hijacker can change your default search engine, like Google or DuckDuckGo, to a fraudulent one, like Search Marquis or Poshukach.
- Unwanted redirects. Shady websites use browser hijackers to attract user traffic to increase advertising revenue, steal user data, or infect victims' devices with more damaging malware.
- Tons of ads. You will be bombarded with numerous ads if you contract this malware. They can appear on redirected websites and alternative search engines or follow you around legitimate sites. These ads can include infectious downloads.
- A different homepage. Browser hijackers often change the default homepage to an alternative filled with ads.
- Unrecognized addons. This malware can install additional browser extensions to modify your browser's behavior.
- Slower browser performance. Due to numerous redirects, flashy ads, and browser setting modifications, you will experience a significant decrease in overall browsing performance. This is one of the main signs of the Viceice.com hijacker.
How do I get rid of a browser hijacker?
Removing a browser hijacker can get somewhat complex as it tends to obfuscate its presence in the device. We'll walk you through how to remove a browser hijacker both from the browser and operating system environments.
Remove browser hijackers with antivirus
If you're wondering how to remove browser hijacking malware most reliably, we suggest using an antivirus. Here's how to do it:
- Subscribe to a trustworthy antivirus. We recommend TotalAV with the WebShield feature
- Download the app and install it on your device
- Open the antivirus and perform a full system scan
- Allow it to quarantine and remove infected files
Some browser hijackers appear as unwanted apps in your system, crossing the web browser boundaries. Here's how to remove it from Windows, macOS, Android, and iPhone. A friendly reminder: you should ensure your browser is hijacker-free afterward using our guide in the following chapter below.
How to remove browser hijackers on Windows
Removing such malware from Windows is straightforward and only takes a single step. Here are Windows 10 and 11 instructions, but older versions follow similar steps:
- Right-click on the Start menu and choose Apps and Features Carefully inspect the list for a suspicious app you did not install
- On Windows 10, left-click on the program and select Uninstall. On Windows 11, left-click on the three dots on the right side, and select Uninstall
How to remove browser hijackers on macOS
Removing browser hijackers apps from macOS takes two steps. First, you'll need to stop its operations and then proceed to uninstall the app.
Step 1. Stop the browser hijacker process
- Open the Go dropdown in the Apple menu and select Utilities
- Double-click on the Activity Monitor
- Locate the hijacker and select the X icon and Stop the process
- From the menu pop-up, choose Force Quit
Step 2. Remove the hijacker from the device
- Go to Finder by clicking on the desktop or Finder icon in dock
- Identify a dubious app that you did not install
- Drag the app to the trash bin
- Clear the trash bin
How to remove browser hijackers on Android and iPhone
The best way to remove browser hijackers from Android, or any other smartphone, is by using reliable antivirus software. But if you want to do so manually, below are two mandatory steps to clear Android of infection.
Step 1. Remove the browser hijacker from your phone
- Go to Android Settings and navigate to the Apps section
- Select Manage Apps and locate a suspicious program
- Click on it to open App info and select Uninstall
Step 2. Remove the hijacker from your browser
- Take the same route to Android Settings > Apps > Manage Apps and select the browser
- Click on the Force stop option and choose Clear data
Here's how to remove browser hijacker on iPhone:
Step 1. Remove the browser hijacker from your iOS
- Go to the Home Screen, and swipe left until you reach the App Library
- Find the unwanted application
- Tap on the app and hold > choose Delete App > click on Delete
Step 2. Remove the infection from the iPhone browser
- Go to iPhone Settings and select your browser
- Click on Clear History and Website Data
- Confirm the action
How to remove browser hijackers from your browser
Browser hijackers can sneak in via the browser environment even if you follow the steps above to remove the malware from the device. They can modify the browser settings to reinstall the malware once you start browsing. Here's how to remove browser hijackers from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Remove browser hijackers from Chrome
- In the upper right corner, click the three dots and select Settings
- Navigate to the Reset and Clean up option
- Choose Restore settings to their original defaults
- Confirm the action by clicking on Reset Settings
Remove browser hijackers from Mozilla Firefox
- Click on three horizontal lines in the upper right corner and select Help
- Choose More troubleshooting information
- On the right side, select Refresh Firefox
- Confirm it by clicking on Refresh Firefox again
Remove browser hijackers from Safari
- On the top left, open the Safari dropdown menu and click on Preferences
- Go to the General Panel
- Verify that the homepage is set to your chosen option
- Go to the Extensions panel and uninstall any suspicious extensions
- Next, go to the Websites panel and deselect the Allow Websites to ask for permission to send notifications option
- Select the Privacy section and click on Manage Website Data
- In the pop-up, choose the Remove all option
- Lastly, return to Sarafi's home screen, locate Develop dropdown on the top, click it, and select Empty Caches
What are examples of browser hijackers?
Browser hijackers have been around for a while, and there are more than we can count, except for our malware analyst. It's also futile putting them all under one umbrella because hijackers significantly differ in their goals and possible damages.
For example, a Bing redirect hijacker only redirects search queries through Microsoft's Bing search engine, but it can be modified to display unwanted ads on Bing. The risk level is low.
On the other hand, the Conduit toolbars collected private information and shared it with third parties. Sounds bad? It gets worse. Its Conduit Search Protect program blocked all attempts at restoring browser settings to the default to ensure malware stays there as long as possible. It could even modify essential Windows boot files preventing the OS from powering up if Conduit was removed. The risk level is extremely high.
Then there's the good-old Babylon Toolbar that came uninvited with Babylon's translation software. It modifies the default homepage and switches the search engine to isearch(.)babylon(.)com, which collects user search queries, and displays ads and sponsored links.
How can I protect my PC against hijackers?
Knowing browser hijacking removal methods is praiseworthy, but knowing how to avoid them in the first place is even better. Here are some useful tips and tricks to avoid catching a browser hijacker:
- Subscribe to an antivirus. The best way to protect your device from cyber threats is by using a reliable antivirus program like TotalAV. It provides real-time online protection inspecting incoming traffic for malicious elements, including browser hijackers. Furthermore, its WebShield feature blocks access to malicious websites, neutralizing hijackers that are already on your device.
- Avoid dubious websites. Online torrenting or illegal gambling sites are often ridden with malware, like browser hijackers. We recommend not visiting them at all, but if you do, don't click any ads, and be sure to use additional cybersecurity software.
- Update your software. Updates often include crucial cybersecurity fixes, so it's essential to apply them as soon as possible. If your operating system or other apps are outdated, they are susceptible to numerous cyber attacks that could install browser hijackers on your device.
- Develop safe browsing habits. The internet is ridden with scams, malware, and cybercriminals of all kinds. Be particularly mindful about opening backlinks on online forums or social media if you can't verify the source is safe. Simultaneously, never open email attachments from unknown senders, as it's one of the most common ways to spread viruses.
Browser hijackers are no laughing matter. Because the web browser is the main tool to access the internet, it can access extremely sensitive information, like banking credentials, personal pictures and videos, and confidential chats. Hackers are fully aware of this and continuously release new browser hijackers to illegally profit from your online activities.
Our tests reveal that the best way to protect your device from browser hijackers is by using reputable antivirus software like TotalAV. The robust real-time online protection combined with a full system scan ensures safety in and out, and the WebShield feature blocks access to virus-infected websites.
But don't rely solely on a piece of software. Be particularly mindful about browsing suspicious websites or opening dubious backlinks. Human error is the primary cause of virus infections, and safe browsing habits are your first line of defense.
What problems does browser hijacking cause?
A browser hijacker can change your default homepage and search engine, redirect to dubious websites, display unwanted apps, collect user data, and install fraudulent browser extensions or toolbars. Because these operations use device computation power, you will also experience an overall decrease in device performance.
Are browser hijackers easy to remove?
Yes, browser hijackers are easy to remove using a reputable antivirus like TotalAV. It will monitor incoming traffic for malicious elements and neutralize them before infection. Simultaneously, you can perform a full system scan to remove all browser hijackers that are already on your device.
What is the most unsafe browser?
Google's Chrome is the most unsafe browser because Google collects vast amounts of user data. Simultaneously, cybercriminals prioritize Chrome because it has the most users. Another insecure browser is Yandex, which is known to collect user data and manipulate search results.