Mac or Windows; a new wave of “search hijack” malware is making the rounds. Also called “browser hijack”, the basic issue is that when you ask to go to one website, your browser takes you to a different place altogether.
Most often this happens with searches; so that, say, when you think that you’re searching in Google, the search results either just don’t look quite right, or you end up at someplace completely different from Google.
The hijack is caused by a malware program – a sort of tiny virus – that crept into your computer to redirect your searches.
While some of these hijackers are fairly benign, all of them have the capacity to quickly lead to much worse malware attacks and they should be removed ASAP.
How to Spot a Search Hijack.
If your web browser often takes you to unexpected websites that contain a lot of advertising or other unwanted content; your browser may have been hijacked.
Or, if you use the search box or address bar at the top of your browser to start searches and the results start showing up from places you’ve never heard of, like “Gala search” or “iSearch” or any place that is not your chosen default search engine, then your browser has been hijacked.
How to get rid of Search Hijacks.
Technically speaking, search hijackers behave like legitimate search programs and so they don’t always show up in antivirus scans. Even so, it’s always a good idea to run a “full” scan with your antivirus program if you think that your system may have been compromised.
The next thing is to reset your browser’s preferred search engine. To get it back from a hijacker, you need to do this twice. To start, go to the “Preferences” or “Settings” or “Internet Options” in your browser and find the setting for “Search”.
You may see a strange name in the search setting, or it may show your usual search provider. In either case, go ahead and temporarily change it to something else.
If it says “Google”, change it to “Yahoo.com” or “Bing”, and vice versa. Now click “OK” to set your change and close all of your open browser windows. Now, restart your browser and try a search for anything… “Pawling NY”.
If the search goes to your new search setting, then great! You may have cleared the search hijack. Now just go back into the settings and change it back to your preferred search destination, then click “OK” and restart your browser.
With any luck, you may be all done. But if that didn’t work, or if the search hijack comes back you’ll need to look deeper for the cause.
Check in your list of installed programs. If you’re comfortable going through your list of installed programs for things that don’t belong, do that. Do be careful about removing anything that just doesn’t look familiar. Some of these things may actually belong in or even be required by your system. If in doubt, of course, call your friendly local computer guy.
If your searches are still being hijacked, even after removing suspected hijackers from your installed programs list, then the problem is deeper in your system. In this case you may need to search the web for specific tools to help get rid of these bad guys.
And, if they are hiding so well that you can’t find them, make no mistake; they are bad guys. Consider calling in a pro to help. There are a few of us in the Pawling area, and of course, I’ll always be delighted to take your call. Mike Pepper ~ Pawling Computer Guy, 845-855-5824.