Browser Hijacker: How They Work and How to Protect Yourself

browser hijack

Browser Hijacker: How They Work and How to Protect Yourself

Key Points

  • Browsers can be hijacked by hackers.
  • A browser hijacker is a type of malicious software designed to change your browser setting.
  • A browser hijacker can be installed on your device through various means.

Web browsers are indispensable. They’re our portal to the internet, and most of our online activities pass through them, so it’s not all that surprising that there are those with malicious intent who seek to strike us through them.

Have you ever opened your browser only to see a different homepage, search engine, or new program in your toolbar?

Chances are, your browser has been infected with a browser hijacker.

In and of itself, the name may not sound so sinister, but browser hijacking is the real deal. It can be used for forceful advertisements, stealing your personal information, and as a gateway to carry out other forms of attack.

We’re answering all of your burning questions about browser hijacking, how it works, and how to protect yourself.

Searches that are redirected to different websites are one of the tell-tale signs of a browser hijacker.

What Is A Browser Hijacker?

A browser hijacker is a type of malicious software designed to change your browser setting, appearance, or other computer behavior without your permission. In its simplest form, this type of attack is used by hackers hoping to obtain advertising revenue by “harvesting your clicks.”

In more severe cases, browser hijacking can be used to implement other forms of attacks and steal your personal information.

How Does Browser Hijacking Work?

A browser hijacker can be installed on your device through various means. This can be through a freeware or shareware installation.

Additionally, some advertisement support applications, add-ons, or plugins may also carry browser hijacking programming that will be deployed once the add-on is installed.

Once browser hijacking software gets into your device, it can install spyware (programs that collect personal details as you use your browser) or adware (ad popups that reward the hacker each time you click).

A browser hijacker may also redirect you to shady websites or search engines where your device may pick up even more malware if you continue to browse and click links. They may also mine your browsing history and online behavior and sell it as metadata without your permission.

Below is a brief video from Eye on Tech explaining browser hijacking, what it does, and how to prevent it.

Types of Browser Hijackers

browser hijack

browser hijack

There are various types of browser hijackers, and each of them is installed on your browser and attacks your device differently. Some of the most popular ones include:


This adware claims to help boost your browsing experience. However, it only contaminates your computer with unwanted advertisement banners and popups. You’re likely to pick this up through free software.

Ask Toolbar

This is an extension that replaces your default homepage or search engine without your permission. It is usually bundled into free internet products, which is also how it is installed.


This plugin mainly tracks your browsing activities through your IP address, cookies, and search queries. It is usually delivered to your device through special discounts and advertisements during online shopping.

Coupon Server

Coupon Server typically offers coupons or comparative shopping offers. When you click the link, the adware installed on your browser forces you to its homepage.

What Are The Risks Of Browser Hijacking?

Aside from the obvious inconvenience of changing your browser’s appearance, search engine, and other default settings, browser hijackers also come with additional risks. Typically, they install adware, web trackers, and spyware on your device. Some of the dangers of a browser hijacking attack include:


Adware is a piece of malware designed to bombard your device with ads. They aren’t just annoying, they can slow down your device because they use up a lot of space and system resources. This makes it difficult to use your device. The hacker makes money by making you click on the ads inadvertently.


Browser hijackers often come with trackers that follow your online activities and build a profile for you based on how you surf the internet. These details are then sold to businesses looking to target you with their ads and sell you products.

Spyware and Identity Theft

Some hijackers may also contain keyloggers. This type of malware collects information as you type them into your device. This can be used to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, internet banking information, debit or credit card details, etc.

Symptoms of Browser Hijacking

The most obvious sign that your browser might have been hijacked is a change of appearance or skin of the browser. Also, you may notice changes in your default settings and different spam or popups. 

A hijacked browser may also redirect your browsing activities to pages you did not input. These are typically malware-infested pages that may install even more viruses on your device. Also, some signs of browser hijacking may go beyond your browser and extend to your device.

A browser hijacker may take up space on your device and use up system resources such as battery life. Your device may also start slowing down or heat up inexplicably.

How to Prevent Browser Hijacking

The most common way browser hijackers get installed on your device is through untrusted downloads and websites. The malware that installs the hijacker on your browser is typically bundled into these pieces of software, and they’re installed on your device before you know it.

Another way is through untrusted public networks such as public Wi-Fi at cafes and other places. To safeguard your device against an attack like this, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading from untrusted sources
  • Use a secure browser
  • Always update your system
  • Disable JavaScript on your browser.
  • Use an antivirus

What Is The Best Antivirus?

The truth is, there are hundreds or even thousands of antivirus software solutions that offer protection against various malware. To determine the best one, you have to compare its performance, features, ease of use, and even pricing. Most importantly, you need to consider the type of protection you need and confirm whether or not the antivirus software offers this.

For instance, while some software only offers device protection, others may also protect your browser from hijackers and other malware. The latter is better if you need protection against browser hijackers. To best protect yourself from a browser hijacker, we recommend Norton 360 Deluxe.

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01/17/2024 11:24 am GMT

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is browser hijacking?

Browser hijacking occurs when unwanted software gets installed on your internet browser, altering the browser’s default settings, appearance, and browser activity without your consent. It may also install other pieces of malware on the browser.

How does a browser hijacker work?

Browser hijackers are typically bundled into malicious links and untrusted downloads. They get installed on your browser without your consent when you click these links or install the software they’re bundled into. Browser hijackers are annoying because they change the default settings of your browser. They may also carry other malicious programs such as adware and spyware that bombard your browser with ads and popups or steal your personal information.

How do you deal with a hijacked browser?

The easiest way to remove a browser hijacker is by using an antivirus program specializing in finding and getting rid of malware like this. You may also manually remove the toolbars and other things that have been installed on your browser by resetting the browser or reinstalling it.

How did I get a browser hijacker?

The most likely source of a malicious program like this is suspicious links on untrusted websites. Malicious links may also be delivered via email or bundled into a free program download.

What are some examples of browser hijackers?

Common examples of browser hijackers include Cool Search, Ask Toolbar, RocketTab, GoSave, and Coupon Server.

How do I know if my browser is infected?

Hijacked browsers are typically riddled with popups and ads that interfere with browsing activity. You’ll also notice changes in your browser’s default settings or find add-ons that you did not install.

Are browser hijackers dangerous?

Yes. Browser hijackers are typically used as gateways for other forms of attacks. They may redirect you to malicious websites where your system might pick up other malware. Browser hijackers may also come with keyloggers, spyware, and other programs that monitor your online activities. They may also be used to steal your identity or access your accounts.

How do I prevent browser hijackers?

The best way to avoid browser hijackers is to be wary of your online activities. Avoiding malicious websites and refraining from downloading free software from untrusted sources will reduce the risk of picking up malware. Using a secure browser or installing antivirus software can help keep you safe from them.

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