Sep 10, 2012 / 5:00 am
I spent much of Labour Day weekend cleaning up after some ugly malicious software, including some stuff that alters the behaviour of Internet Explorer and Firefox. Let’s be careful out there!
Browser hijacks are as bad as they sound
When you open up your browser, what’s your home page? Some people like Google, and we certainly hope you like Castanet.net to start your day. You can have any page, any combination of pages --- or a blank page --- when you start your browser or open a new tab.
What happens when you type something into the Search bar in your browser? Do you go to Bing or Google? You can set up your browser’s search engines to use as many or as few as you want.
Or sometimes … you can’t. A certain type of malicious software will hijack your browser, taking over your home page, your new tabs, and misdirecting your searches to questionable (best case) or horrible (worst case) websites.
This is beyond annoying. This is dangerous. Your browser has been hijacked. You don’t have control of where you’re going, and some of the destinations can bring even more crap onto your computer.
MyWebSearch is well known for this behaviour, and malware removal forums abound with people asking for help in removing the toolbar, changing the search and home page and getting the rest of the junk out.
Like MyWebSearch, Babylon doesn’t want to go quietly. It’s not classified as malware, although it was at one time. But it sure acts like malware. It hijacks your home page and your search engine. It puts toolbars in your browsers. It changes the “new tab” behaviour.
If you find your browser with MyWebSearch or Babylon, or ANY unwanted search engines, add-ins, or home pages and you can’t get things back to normal, your computer has a problem. It’s most likely running pretty slow, too. Malwarebytes (http://malwareytes.org) or SuperAntiSpyware (http://superantispyware.com) might fix it, but if that doesn’t work you need to get some expert help.
You can minimize the chances of getting hijacked or otherwise infected by following a few guidelines. Start by installing, configuring, and running a good antivirus + antispyware program. I stand by my recommendations in this column: http://rlis.com/columns/column356.htm. No matter which program you use, supplement its “always on” protection with an on-demand scan using Malwarebytes or SuperAntiSpyware every week or so. Keep your antivirus and antimalware programs up to date!
Use a browser add-on called Web of Trust, or if you have Avast!, use the one that comes with that. These add-ons help identify potentially dangerous websites. Install this add-on in every browser on your computer. Learn more and download it here: http://www.mywot.com/.
Next, pay close attention to what you are installing and what comes along with it. This is how toolbars and unwanted programs gain entry to your computer in the first place. Choose “custom” instead of “express” or “typical” when you install a new program. More about that in the last item here: http://rlis.com/columns/column362.htm.
Finally, slow down and think things over. Before you click on something in an email, ask yourself if you were really expecting a package, if it seems reasonable that you would be notified of an inheritance by email, if a friend or relative would really be stranded overseas and need money emailed to him. If you receive an email, even from a trusted email address, does it look funny? Does the message seem out of character for the purported sender? Don’t click on it!
It’s always something
Even when we use common sense about clicking on things and have fully protected our computers, sometimes we’re just outsmarted by the bad guys. If you think or are sure something got past your defences, shut down the computer before whatever it is has a chance to go deeper. Use another computer to do your research, or call for help.
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to email@example.com.
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