Thursday, July 27, 2006

Your browser's Home page had hijacked...

Beware of Homepage Hijackers!

You visit a certain web site or install a certain free program on your PC only to find later that your browser’s default home page, and /or search page has been changed. And at times, certain Browser Helper Object (BHO) gets added in your browser. Next time when you restart your browser, amazingly, you will see that your browser has been hijacked and pointed straight to their web site instead of your default home page. Home page hijacking is not a new trend. In fact, when you install a browser, its default home page always points to the home page of that browser. You have to change that initial setting for your own home page; for example; to your favorite site www.electronicsforu.com. But, initial default settings from Browser Company can readily be changed and it is not termed as real hijacking. The hijacked site always loads with lots of advertisements, pop-ups, make-money-messages or porn sites that do business through those sites. Some hijackers install pay-per-call long distance international dialers without your knowledge.

Help! Hijackers are here!

You may encounter two types of browser homepage hijackers. The easy one and the hard one. The easy one type hijackers simply change your default home page to their page which can be changed back to default or previous settings through Browser’s Options/Preferences settings. Now you only have to remember to never visit those sites again or never use those particular applications that had hijacked your browser. On the other hand, the hard one hits you really hard and does not let you restore your default browser settings easily. If you restore the browser setting, then, upon Windows restart, it will again change the settings. Some hijackers won’t allow you to change back to default home page by changing registry setting that gray out the restore options. And a couple of hijackers lock Windows registry that makes impossible to remove them.

How hijackers are installed

Hijackers can install through various ways. If you click a certain link to web page that contain malicious hijack code in the form of ActiveX controls or java script that runs in browser, it will install in your computer. The ActiveX can do practically anything on your computer and hijacking your home page is a simple task. Some hijackers install as standalone exe files and disguise as enhancements, updates to certain popular application etc., which you accidentally run on your browser. Similarly, if you install some application that depends on advertisement across Internet; for example, Tetris3000, they change home page of your browser with your permission. If you bring back your browser settings to the original, the application looks for the browser settings and may not start if it does not find its web site as default home page. Hijacking Homepage is a sort of Internet Traffic Stealing tricks that are used for generating web business. Some time, Hijackers installs with your express permission and most of the time without your knowledge. Some hijackers also made entries in the Favorite / Bookmark folder of your browser.

Hating Hijackers

Although you cannot evade homepage hijackers if you are using Internet, you can limit their attack. Here are three steps through which you can foul their possible attack:

Step1: Use most advanced security option in browser. Use latest, updated version of browser that have resolved known security bugs.

Step2: Do not allow ActiveX and Java scripts to run in browser. But be prepare to accept dummy browser that has functionality to a considerably low level.

Step3: Use software that constantly monitors hijacking activity and disallow such activity or warn you upon such events so that you can adopt appropriate measures. Some software help rescue the hijacked system by removing them and bringing back old default setting. In the event of hijacking attack, to remove browser hijackers, use of software is necessary in certain condition that involves system registry settings.

Step 1 and 2 may be used in the environment meant for institutions where security is of more concern rather than functionality. But for an average user, to use full potential of Internet, unrestricted use is necessary hence step 3 may be of good use for them. There are some nice programs that can be used for checking browser hijacking.

StartPage Guard

StartPage Guard protects your computer from browser hijacking by monitoring status of Internet Browser. Once set, it prevents from un-authorized changes of browser’s default home page. If changes occur, it alerts the user or brings back the original setting according to its configuration settings. StartPage Guard is easy to use and configure. You simply have to click on the Lock icon to lock the home page of your browser, and rest will be taken care by the StartPage Guard. This freeware application can be downloaded from http://www.spywareinfo.org/downloads/spg/spg2.2.zip

Spybot- Search and Destroy

This freeware application not only searches for browser start page changes, it can find and remove other spyware as well, including other malicious items installed in the computer such as tracking cookies, expensive dialers, key loggers, Trojans and adwares. It can also destroy common usage tracks of common applications from your system. Though the application is big and needs little time and energy for configuring its various settings, but, once set, it delivers things. The application scans your computer similarly as a virus scanner for spyware and other things in one go. The best part of application is that its author has dedicated this wonderful application to the most wonderful girl on earth. Have this nice utility from http://studserver.uni.dortmund.de/su1669/spybotsd11.exe

Browser Hijack Blaster

Browser Hijack Blaster is a simple freeware application that protects your system from any changes made in browser’s Default page, Home page, Search page and BHO. All the required settings are done in browser and Browser Hijack Blaster acts as a protection switch. Simply run this application and it starts protecting the browser from any further changes. You can start and stop this application by simply clicking on its button which acts as toggle switch. Get this freeware application from http://www.wilders.org/HTMLobj-1456/bhblastersetup.exe

Guard IE

This small application can be used only for – as name suggests, Internet Explorer. In addition to preventing hijacking Internet Explorer’s home page, this tool can also prevents pop-up ads, manages IE cache and Cookies and finds web bugs. It can also remove IE browser history and prevent adding bookmarks and favorites in browser. It can also prevent scripts that resize and change browser window. This application is easy to use and you simply have to select or deselect respective configuration entries for browser protection. You can try this application from http://www.guardwall.com/bin/GuardIE32/306/GuardIE32.exe .

Screenshot Descriptions:

  1. Hijack01.Jpg Tetris3000, the freeware game program, upon installation hijacks the default home page of browser to another site and won’t allow the application to run if the changes are reversed.
  2. Hijack02.Jpg StartPage Guard is a simple application that guards browser from hijacking attack.
  3. Hijack03.Jpg Browser Hijack Blaster monitors and protects browser form any changes in default page, home page , search page and BHO (Browser Helper Objects)
  4. Hijack04.Jpg Spybot Search and Destroy is a feature-full application that scans computer for spyware , usage tracks etc. in addition to guarding your browser against home page hijacking.
  5. Hijack05.Jpg Browser Hijack Blaster gives alert when a BHO is added in browser. It also gives you option to either accept it or remove it.
  6. Hijack06.Jpg Guard IE – the utility that guards Internet Explorer against various malicious activities of web pages including hijacking.
  7. Hijack07.Jpg As soon your home page changes knowingly or un-knowingly, you are alerted through Browser Hijack Blaster.
Hijack08.Jpg Browser Hijack Blaster can log activities that make changes in browser settings and display them for analysis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great listing of free tools
thanks
Roger

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