How To Clean A Hijacked Web Browser

Craig Snyder 16-02-2015

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.

Browser Hijack

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.

Browser Hijack

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.


Browser Hijack

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.

Browser Hijack

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 Pause Google: 8 Alternative Search Engines To Find What Google Can't We probably know all the Google search tricks, but there are still things that Google can't tell us at first glance. Google's a Hercules, but we shouldn't be shortsighted not to spot the midgets. Yes,... Read More that you may be interested in adding to your browser.


Removing Toolbars

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.

Browser Hijack

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 Get Rid Of Those Annoying Browser Toolbars With Toolbar Cleaner [Windows] Maybe it's a trend that is quickly coming back, or just coincidence and bad luck on my part, but I've noticed an alarming amount of new freeware applications coming bundled with toolbars. The only browser... Read More , 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 The Best Firefox Addons Firefox is famous for its extensions. But which addons are the most useful? Here are the ones we think are best, what they do, and where you can find them. Read More .


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.

Browser Hijack

Clicking as shown above will bring you into the window shown below.

Browser Hijack

Here, verify that Firefox is not configured to work with a proxy.

Remain Cautious

While running regular scans for malware Make Sure You're Clean With These Free One-Time Scan Antivirus Tools [Windows] It sucks to be constantly bombarded by computer-related threats, whether they’re spyware, malware, viruses, keyloggers, or whatever else. A popular way to combat this problem is to install an antivirus solution that sits in the... Read More 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 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes Have you ever opened your browser of choice and been greeted with a bizarre-looking start page or an unsightly toolbar glued to the top of the page? Restore your browser to tip-top shape. Read More 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!

Related topics: Anti-Malware, Mozilla Firefox.

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  1. Jim
    July 14, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Good stuff here. More difficult than I thought though, will have to go to the Mozilla website to fix my start page.

  2. Von Adam Martinez
    February 22, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Or you can migrate to another profile?

  3. gecko
    February 18, 2015 at 11:59 am

    For an extra pair of eyes use the excellent tool "unchecky". I have been trying it now for a few weeks and it certainly unticks those boxes.

  4. charmingguy
    February 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I would also recommend a second pair of eyes in the form of a small app called:

    I have tried it for several weeks now and it works fine.

  5. d2
    February 17, 2015 at 12:38 am

    The title is misleading and it wasted me a couple of precious minutes... It should have used "Firefox" instead of "Web browser" as likefunbutnot mentioned.

  6. Doc
    February 17, 2015 at 12:20 am

    "Here, verify that Firefox is not configured to work with a proxy." Should read "...or the proxy you've chosen." More and more users are using an SSL proxy to encrypt their web browsing, especially with the NSA and GCHQ looking over everyone's shoulders.

  7. Doc
    February 17, 2015 at 12:19 am

    "Here, verify that Firefox is not configured to work with a proxy." Should read "...or the proxy you've chosen." More and more users are using an SSL proxy encrypt their web browsing, especially with the NSA and GCHQ looking over everyone's shoulders.

  8. likefunbutnot
    February 16, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    This article should more properly be title "How to Clean Up Firefox after a Hijack", since a lot of the information contained herein is very different for IE, Chrome or Safari.

    Non-Firefox Browsers on Windows almost all rely on IE's proxy server settings. The basic ideas of checking add-ons, search plugins, home page et al are the same in concept but very different in terminology and execution, though in many cases it's difficult for a non-technical user to determine which of those settings are legitimate and appropriate.