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Browser Hijacker: The Invisible Online Terror?

Browser Hijacker: The Invisible Online Terror?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Researcher
 Published on August 2nd, 2023
This post was updated on November 25th, 2023

A browser hijacker is a type of unwanted software that modifies a web browser’s settings without the user’s permission. This may result in changes to your home page, new tab page, or search engine. Often, this is done to direct traffic to a specific webpage or track your internet activities for marketing purposes. Besides being annoying, browser hijackers can potentially lead to serious privacy and security risks.

Browser Hijacker Examples

1. Unexpected Change of Homepage

A typical example of a browser hijacker in action presents itself when a user opens an internet browser and notices that the homepage has mysteriously switched to a different website. This new homepage is often unfamiliar and unrelated to the user’s usual or preferred homepage.

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Users experiencing this issue may attempt to revert the change by going into the browser settings and switching the homepage back to their preferred one. Nonetheless, if a browser hijacker is behind the change, the unwanted homepage will persistently reappear each time the browser is reopened, ignoring the user’s attempts to restore their original settings.

Encountering such unexpected and stubborn changes to browser settings, especially the homepage, is a clear sign that a browser hijacker software might be installed. Although this mostly causes annoyance and inconvenience, it could potentially lead to privacy concerns or exposure to risky content online.

2. Switched Default Search Engine

An altered default search engine is another common instance of browser hijacker intervention. Here, your standard search engine, whether it be Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another, is replaced without your consent by a less popular or completely unknown search engine.

When trying to revert the changes, like modifying the search engine back to the original choice via browser settings, the alterations persist. Regardless of adjustments made, the unwanted search engine reappears each time a web search is conducted.

This continuous switch and resistance to reverting alterations is a strong indicator of a browser hijacker’s presence. Not only does it disrupt a user’s online searching habits, but it can also put personal data at risk, as unknown search engines might not have stringent privacy policies, potentially endangering user information.

3. Increase in Pop-up Advertisements

Another common symptom of a browser hijacker is a sudden and noticeable increase in pop-up advertisements, banners, or unexpected browser redirects. This may be most noticeable when you are navigating the web, and it seems like every click results in multiple new windows or tabs opening with advertisements or different websites.

Many times, these ads or redirects are promoting certain products, services, or websites, with each click resulting in additional revenue for those behind the browser hijacker. So even though you didn’t intentionally click on the ad or go to that website, the hijacker can make it seem that you did.

Besides simply being annoying, these unwanted interruptions could potentially expose your computer to harmful viruses or other invasive software. They can also indicate that a browser hijacker has made its way onto your system, and immediate removal may be necessary to protect both your personal data and overall browsing experience.


In essence, a browser hijacker is an invasive and often unwanted software that alters your browser settings, often leading to a compromised browsing experience and potential privacy issues. By familiarizing yourself with signs such as an unexpected homepage change, search engine switch, or an influx of pop-up advertisements, you can detect and promptly remove these annoying programs, thereby securing your online activities.

Key Takeaways

  • Browser hijackers are unwanted software programs that modify browser settings without the user’s consent, usually to direct web traffic or track online activities.
  • Common signs of a browser hijacker include unrequested changes to your homepage or default search engine.
  • Another symptom of a browser hijacker can be an increase in pop-up ads or redirects when browsing the internet.
  • While mostly annoying, browser hijackers can pose serious risks to your online privacy and security, especially when dealing with unknown search engines or being exposed to risky content.
  • The best way to protect your computer from browser hijackers is by being familiar with these signs and taking immediate action for removal if you suspect one has made its way onto your system.

Related Questions

1. How can I remove a browser hijacker from my system?

This usually involves uninstalling any suspicious or unwanted programs from your computer, resetting your browser settings, and running a full scan using reputable antivirus software to identify and remove any lingering threats.

2. How can I prevent browser hijackers?

Always download software from trusted sources, be cautious when clicking on pop-up ads or links from unknown sources, and regularly update your antivirus software, which can help in detecting browser hijackers.

3. Are all browser hijackers malicious?

Not necessarily. While some browser hijackers are designed with malicious intent, many are created to generate advertisement revenue. However, even non-malicious hijackers can inadvertently expose users to security vulnerabilities.

4. Why are browser hijackers a security risk?

Some browser hijackers can track your online activities and collect private data, such as browsing history, login credentials, or personal details, creating potential privacy issues and security risks.

5. Does a browser hijacker damage my computer?

Directly, no, but a browser hijacker can make your computer more vulnerable to other threats, like malware or ransomware. It can also indirectly cause system slowdown due to increased pop-ups and ads, degrading your overall user experience.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional
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