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IF01104                  Get My Tips Package.  57 Vista Run Commands

Q.  My Web Browser Has Been Hijacked.

A.  I get asked this question quite often and there are so many causes I just created a document on the subject.

Spyware, adware, malware, and other Trojans are becoming an ever-growing threat to users who browse the Internet and/or install free programs. However, many computer users do not realize when these programs are secretly installed on a computer or realize when their system or browsers settings are changed. Below is a listing of potential symptoms a user may encounter when their browser or computer has been hijacked.

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Default home page changes to a different page; commonly an adult oriented web page.

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Computer slows down.

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New tools in the browser such as a new search toolbar is installed or added to the browser.

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Default search engine or other settings changed. 

Unfortunately, many of the software programs designed to hijack a computer's browser are intentionally designed to be difficult to remove and/or detect. Below are recommendations on how these types of programs can be prevented and/or removed.

Free programs

When installing free programs such as KaZa, read the disclaimers and watch for additional programs that are being installed. Many times these programs are supported by automatically installing spyware programs.

If you no longer use these programs on a regular basis, uninstalling these programs will (but not always) also uninstall any associated software that is included with them.

Add/Remove programs

If you are running Microsoft Windows and you have noticed a program that you do not wish to use or want uninstalled, see if the program can be removed through Add/Remove programs in the Control panel.

All of the legitimate companies that install toolbars onto your computer should be able to be removed through the Add/Remove programs icon in the control panel. Some examples include the Alexa Toolbar, Google Toolbar, Yahoo Toolbar, and Windows Live Toolbar.

If the spyware program you're attempting to uninstall cannot be uninstalled or gets reinstalled when you reboot the computer. Boot the computer into safe mode and then uninstall the program while in safe mode. Additional information about getting into safe mode can be found on document IF00147.

Restore browser settings

Some web pages and programs are designed to automatically change your browser's settings. For example, a web page or program may automatically change your default home page to an alternate home page. These types of issues can be corrected by following the below steps.

1.     Close all browser windows so that only one window is open.

2.     Visit an alternate safe site such as Computer Hope or Google.

3.     Correct the settings changed, such as changing your home page back to your original home page.

4.     Once the settings have been changed and applied, close out of the browser window.

5.     The next time the browser is opened it should have the correct settings. However, if the site that changed your browser settings is visited again, it is likely that the settings will be changed again. This issue can be prevented with many of the spyware / adware programs that are available today.

Spyware / Adware / Malware detection and removal programs

Because of the ever-growing threat of these types of programs, many companies and individuals have developed programs that help prevent, detect, and remove these types of programs. Below is a listing of a few of the programs you may wish to consider.

         Microsoft's Windows Defender

         Ad-aware from Lavasoft

         Spy Sweeper from Webroot Software

         SpyBot Search and Destroy

         SpywareBlaster from Javacool Software

         HijackThis by Merijn.

A computer can have any number of spyware programs installed at the same time and it's recommended that you have more than one to ensure your computer is not infected. When running these programs if the spyware returns after rebooting the computer boot the computer into safe mode and run the spyware programs while in safe mode. Additional information about getting into safe mode can be found on document IF00147.

Microsoft Windows XP users

If you are running Microsoft Windows XP, updating to the latest Service Pack will help protect your computer against spyware.

Try alternative browser

Because Microsoft Internet Explorer is the most widely used browser today and because of its vulnerabilities, switching to an alternative browser such as Mozilla Firefox can significantly reduce the amount of spyware you get on your computer. 

System Restore

Users who are running Microsoft Windows XP and are not able to remove a program that has hijacked their computer or browser may also wish to consider running the Microsoft System Restore and restore their computer to an earlier date. Steps on how to do this can be found on document IF00144.

Let me know if you need anything else.

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