What’s more frustrating than launching Firefox only to see that your homepage has been changed without your authorization? Maybe you’ve even got a shiny new toolbar. Those things are always useful, right? Wrong. Browser hijacks can cripple your browsing speed and even lead you towards installing malware.
In this article, I’m going to show Firefox users how to reclaim their browsers from these hijacks.
How Did I Get Hijacked?
The most common method of falling victim to a browser hijack is just clicking through installation prompts too quickly. Many download sites, now even including some of the most popular in the US, send you through a maze when installing their software. It’s not a simply matter of just unchecking a selection box anymore.
Always read through the installation process carefully when you’re working with new software. You should always select the “custom installation” path if it’s offered to you. One trick that bundlers do is to not show you everything that you’re installing in the standard installation path. Through the custom installation path, you can often find that you’re able to opt out of all sorts of annoying adware and toolbars.
Another tip is to pay attention to tricky usage of “Decline” and “Next”. When clicking through an installer that has junkware, sometimes a simple Next button can act as consent to install something that you don’t want. Carefully check to see if there is a Decline button.
Checking Your Defaults
Your default homepage and search engine are often the most obvious areas where a browser hijack can show itself.
If your homepage has been changed, navigate to the Options menu, under the General tab, as shown in the screenshot below.
From here, check to see what your homepage is set as. The blank, default homepage is Mozilla Firefox Start Page. You can put in any web address or populate the field with your current page or a bookmark by clicking those respective buttons.
It’s important to check that your default search engine is what you’d prefer it to be, also. You can do that in the same window under the Search tab. Ensure that the default search engine is set appropriately. Many search engines, and especially those that you’ll find hijacking your browser, are polluted with ads.
Furthmore, I’d scroll through the list of available search engines and delete any that seem suspicious or not very useful to you. Here are eight non-Google search engines that you may be interested in adding to your browser.
To get rid of toolbars, first take a look at your installed extensions through the Add-ons menu. Firefox becomes rather clunky with many extensions installed, so I’d recommend keeping this list as small as possible.
Uninstall anything and everything that appears to have been installed by a third party. However, some toolbars root themselves deeper than that. I recommend download and running Toolbar Cleaner, as explained in the linked article.
If you’re looking for safe and useful add-ons for Firefox, check out our list of the best Firefox add-ons.
Checking Proxy Settings
One thing that many don’t consider is that your browser could be hijacked at the proxy level. To check this out, go back into the Options menu and let’s look at the Advanced tab, then click the Network subtab.
Clicking as shown above will bring you into the window shown below.
Here, verify that Firefox is not configured to work with a proxy.
While running regular scans for malware is always a good idea, cleaning up a Firefox browser hijack isn’t as difficult as many probably think it is. Chrome users can find how to clean up browser hijacks in Chrome using this guide.
My best tip is to be extremely cautious with what new software you install and to remain cautious through the installation process. It’s never fun to end up installing Ask Toolbar when all you wanted was the newest version of Java, right? Let me know what you think of these tips or ask any questions in the comments section below!