Thursday, July 11, 2013

Has your browser been hijacked?

I regularly clean up people's computers and in most cases they don't realise their browser has been hijacked. It doesn't matter if they're using Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Firefox, the result is the same. When they open their browser they see a page which is similar to the Google search page but it isn't Google's site. When they go to search they get search results which again look similar to Google search results but aren't quite the same.

The reason is they've visited a site, clicked on a link and had their browser hijacked. Many free programs people install such as free antivirus programs (and even paid programs) also hijack the browsers search engine.

For me the fastest and easiest browser to repair is Internet Explorer. Change the home page and change the default search engine, delete the offending search engine and the problem is fixed (as long as they computer isn't infected with malware). This is all done using options provided in Internet Explorer from the tools menu.

Because it is so easy using Internet Explorer and support is money to clients, most clients are more than happy to have Internet Explorer cleaned and stop using Chrome and Firefox.

One technique I used in the past was to create a Search Engine add-in which simply went straight to Google. Then when I visited clients I could look at the search engine and know that if it was still the same search engine I'd installed, their browser had not been hijacked. I used the same technique last night with a family friend and realised just how easy it made things for them. I set the home page to my Search Australia page and their search engine to use Search Australia. Visually they can now instantly see their browser hasn't been hijacked. They don't have to use my search engine but having it there gives them peace of mind. If it is changed they know they've somehow had their search engine/home page hijacked and that means they've either installed a new program, which they didn't realise would hijack their home page and search engine, or they've got and infection and need to call me. Either way they can see immediately.

To install Search Australia as your default home page in Internet Explorer open Internet Explorer, go to, then select Tools (press the ALT key to see the menus if they aren't visible), select Internet Options and click on Use current. To set Search Australia as the default search engine click on the link "Add to Internet Explorer" on the Search Australia page, select "Make this my default search provider" and click Add. This now means the home page is set to a known page and the search engine is set to a known default. Any change means something unexpected has happened to the computer and the computer should be checked.

It should be noted that I created Search Australia to provide more localised searching based on Australian domains and nominated keywords. Google ads do appear and in the spirit of full disclosure I do receive revenue from Google. For me however Search Australia provides a search engine that gives me the results I want and enables me to quickly fix family and friends computers which is often done in return for a simple thank you.

If you think your browser may have been hijacked a quick way to find out is to enter the word "test" and check the resulting search results page. Often there will be other business names on the page and the website address in the address bar won't be a Google address. Open your browser and go to and again enter the word "test". If the results differ there's a good chance your browser has been hijacked. (This assumes you're searching from Australia. If you're reading this article from another country use the Google domain for your country.) Sometimes you won't be able to get to Google's search page at all which means your browser has been hijacked.

Kelvin Eldridge
Online Connections
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and the surrounding area.

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