What's a browser Hijacker?
Hijackers may also make entries to the HOSTS file on your Windows system. This special file directly maps Web URLs to IP addresses - so every time you type www.microsoft.com (for example) you might would redirected to the IP address of a sponsored search page, or pornography site instead.
But, we consider hijackers to be more than just what is described in the preceding paragraph; we believe that any program you install that alters the way you search the Web or changes your preferred choice of search engine is also a browser hijacker, because it alters the way you use you browser. Others might refer to those programs that alter your search behavior as "Search Engine Hijackers", but in reality they are actually forms of Browser Hijackers, in our opinion.
A newer, more clandestine browser hijacker has
become popular lately. That is the type of hijacker that alters the searches
you perform even when you use your preferred search engine. We call these
Search Engine Manipulators (SEMs) and they too are a form of browser
hijacker. SEMs re-arrange search results to make advertisements appear to be
search results. While they are marked "paid advertisements" if you're not
paying attention, you may not see this. Additionally, you might have to
scroll down then entire page or even two pages to get to the actual search
results. What these hijackers attempt to do is fool you into clicking an
advertisement believing it to be part of the actual results from a search.
When you click the company making the hijacker gets paid a few cents. It
behooves the company that makes these types of hijackers to get their
software installed on as many computers as possible because millions of
installations means millions of dollars. To see an example of a SEM-type
see this page showing Ask Jeeve's MyWebSearch
(FunWebProducts/SmileyCentral) manipulating the results of a Google search.
If you look carefully, you'll see "sponsored links" above the one and a half
pages of advertisement you have to scroll through to get to the actual
Rarely these days do mainstream hijackers use security holes within Internet Explorer to install themselves automatically without any user interaction at all. Whiles some experts, decidedly anti-Microsoft experts, would have you believe that spyware, adware and browser hijackers are being installed by the millions because of "security holes" in Internet Explorer, this is simply not true. The truth is that security holes that allow the installation of this type of software are virtually non-existent in Windows XP SP2. Furthermore, 95% of all hijackers and spyware/adware are installed because people want to install them. Either the hijacker (or adware/spyware) is buried in some other desirable software (bundling) or the company that makes the hijacker (or adware/spyware) has been clever enough to trick the user into believe the software is safe and free from adware/spyware or hijackers.
The way to avoid hijackers is the same way we recommend avoiding spyware and adware. Use common sense. Use the right tools. Tools like WinPatrol (free version available here) and/or Spyware Blaster can warn you before you install a hijacker. Tools like Spybot Search & Destroy (free version available here) and SpySweeper (our #1 choice - free time-limited trial available here).
Use the right tools
help you, but use your common sense first. Your common sense will tell you
when something just doesn't seem right. Listen to that little voice in your
head. It's the best protection you have on the Web.
©2005 Cloudeight Internet