Six ways to protect yourself against a browser hijacker
Browser hijackers may not, currently, the most serious cyberthreat on the internet, but they can be one of the most irritating. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself against them. Here are six of them.
Understand what a browser hijacker actually is
A browser hijacker is a form of malicious software (malware), which essentially takes control of your browser and continually directs it to a webpage from which the creator of the software gains some kind of advantage. This may be just the “fun” of making mischief or it may be a financial advantage.
Be aware that browser hijackers are generally spread in the form of browser extensions
Browser extensions are also sometimes known as plug-ins, basically they add some element of extra functionality to your browser. Many browser extensions serve entirely legitimate and useful functions, in fact some of them are well-known and well-respected products in their own right. Many, however, are, at best, of moderate benefit and some are outright malicious. Browser hijackers are one obvious example of the latter.
Remember that some browser hijackers are downloaded (legitimate) software
Be very cautious about downloading free software or even software priced at bargain-bin levels. It’s true that there is some great free/freemium/super-affordable software on the internet, but there is also a lot of very questionable software out there so it’s really important to stick with known brand names and/or check the installation details very carefully before you go ahead and click the “I accept” button on any new piece of software.
If you are downloading legitimate software then you should have the option to uncheck browser extensions (and indeed anything else you like). If you don’t, then you can probably take the fact as a hint that you want to back out of the installation as quickly as possible.
Keep your operating system and browser(s) updated
While it’s true that some malware creators are coming up with increasingly sophisticated methods of attack, many are just following the tried-and-tested strategy of taking advantage of ignorance, laziness and/or business.
Updating operating systems can be a real pain, especially with Windows where multiple restarts can be required. The updates, however, are created for a reason and often that reason is to address security vulnerabilities. Similar comments apply to browser updates. They may take less time to install but if you use multiple browsers, then you have multiple updates to apply.
Trim your list of browser extensions
In the old days, both storage and memory were so expensive computer manufacturers had to use them with great care. These days, even basic computers have multiple gigabytes if not terabytes of in-built storage plus multiple gigabytes of memory. This storage can serve many useful purposes but it can also tempt people into building up digital clutter, which can lead to problems.
If you trim down your list of browser extensions to ones you either really need or really love then you’ll have a much shorter list to go through if you pick up a browser hijacker. Similar comments apply to your programs/apps in general. If you trim them down to the essentials, then you’ll have fewer suspects to eliminate if you end up having a problem.
If you’re using an antivirus program, you won’t have to go through the pain of checking each browser extension (or program/app) yourself, but you will have to give your antivirus time to do its work and the fewer items it has to check, the quicker you’ll get back your computer/mobile device to use as you wish.
Make sure you have proper security software on your computer/mobile device
Even though everyone uses the term “antivirus” program/app, what you really need is a robust, all-round security program, as browser hijackers are not necessarily viruses. Depending on the browser hijacker they may be a PUP (potentially unwanted program) or out-and-out malware, but they are unlikely to be viruses.
This fact is the main reason why the in-built security programs in the major operating systems are likely to be of little help against them. They tend to be at their strongest when dealing with “classic” viruses, which need to be downloaded and installed in order to do their worst.
Regardless of whether you’re using a computer or a mobile device, you need to make it a top priority to install robust security software, partly to reduce the possibility of your picking up a browser hijacker (or other malware) in the first place and partly to ensure that if you do pick one up you will have software in place to deal with it as modern viruses often try to block users from downloading/installing security software. Head to this page to download Comodo antivirus and get the protection you need today!