Browser Hijackers: How to Remove Search Redirects From Chrome

August 18th · 10 min read

Guardio Research Team
Guardio Research Team

You open your browser and notice something strange: your usual homepage has been replaced by a new search engine you don’t recognize. "Weird, but ok," you think, but you continue browsing. Then, every time you try and open a new tab, you come back to this new search engine. You can’t get to Chrome or the search engine you usually use anymore, and not only that, and you're suddenly bombarded with pop-ups. You try changing your browser settings - but that doesn’t seem to have any effect.

Bad news: Your browser has been hijacked by malicious browser extensions like or similar ones. Besides being annoying, browser hijacking is also quite dangerous and may cause actual damage to your computer and privacy. No need to panic - there are a few easy things you can do to reset and correct.

Let’s get started.

What is a browser hijacker?

So simply put, a browser hijacker, also known as a search redirect, is malicious software that changes your browser's settings without your permission. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but it can redirect you to malicious sites and ads and monitor your online activities. Sometimes, it also provides hijackers access to your most sensitive information, like passwords or credit card details.

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Common ways browser hijackers get onto your computer

A search engine redirect usually getss into your system through an accidental download, a malicious email attachment, an extension, or after unintentionally visiting a scam site. Often, it's bundled with free software, like an app. “Bundling” is also a common way to get a search redirect. It’s a browser hijacker that disguises itself as a system plugin or update. These files are very good at hide and seek and are usually buried in an update or download.

The thing is that cybercriminals are usually very good at what they do - spotting a malicious link or file is nearly impossible. Once installed, the hijacker can change your browser without your permission. These include sending you to scam websites, tracking your online activity, and logging personal information like user IDs, passwords, and SSNs. Cybercriminals can also use browser hijackers to steal your identity or install malware, such as ransomware.

How browser hijackers work and why

Well, there's one obvious answer: money. Most redirects force you to click on links that increase their advertising revenue. Whenever users click on these ads, they are automatically directed to malicious websites that pay criminals per click.

Other redirects are designed to track every single thing you're doing online. Your IP address, page views, location, search history, and details are monitored and monetized. Once criminals track you, they can get a hold of your online identity and sensitive information. This may be done to impersonate you, steal your money, or sell your information on the dark web. Here’s how redirects work:

  1. A browser redirects the victim's homepage to the criminal's search page
  2. The criminal then steers the victim's searches to links he wants them to see instead of real search engine results
  3. When the user clicks on the search results, the hijacker gets paid

Symptoms of browser hijacking

Some good news for a change: once browser redirects become active - they're super easy to spot. Here are some things to look out for:

Your search engine is replaced. Have you ever opened a new search engine tab and found yourself redirected to another site? Well, that's one of the most prominent indications that you might be the victim of a search engine redirect. Sometimes you might even be redirected to a seemingly legit site - like Yahoo. Don’t be fooled - this happens because someone is getting paid to get you there. For example, If you usually use Chrome as your go-to engine and suddenly your search tool sends your results through a search engine you don't recognize - you're almost definitely dealing with a browser hijacker. Search Marquis and Ask are two of the most common scam search engines to watch out for.

Settings can't be changed. Don't be surprised if you can't change your browser settings or if doing so doesn't seem to work. Hijackers sneak into your browser settings and prevent you from changing your preferred search engine or homepage.

You're bombarded with popup ads as soon as you go online. Popups and random pages appearing on multiple browsers are signs of a hijacker. These can be annoying or even aggressive adverts and commercials for stuff you don't want. They can, embarrassingly, also be pornographic or even worse, and this can be profoundly inappropriate and upsetting.

Pages take longer to load, and your computer is just running slower than usual. Pages take longer to load because malicious software is installed behind the scenes, taking up bandwidth.

What are the risks of browser hijackers?

  • Change your home page or search engine to one the hijacker wants you to use.
  • Spam you with unwanted popup ads
  • Slow down your search and page loading time
  • Install multiple toolbars on a web browser that you did not install
  • Steal banking information and other sensitive data
  • Keep a record of your online activities

How to get rid of a browser hijacker

Ok. So, there are a few things you can do. The first is to install a tool that's designed to correct and search redirects and prevent future ones. They do this by adjusting your browser to your preferred setting, so you won't get those annoying "bounce-offs" or be forced to click on ads or sites you never intended to land on. Second, they block all scam sites, downloads, or extensions containing harmful codes that may hijack your browser in the future. The next thing we recommend doing is a complete reset of your cookies and cache, an extension cleanup, and a browser reset.

Install a dedicated browser protection tool

24/7 cyber protection is a must in this case. Guardio is a cyber extension designed to keep you safe against these browser dangers. It corrects search engine redirects and neutralizes any other malware on your system. It also blocks harmful sites and downloads that may cause your browser to be hijacked and scans your device for threats and unwanted programs.

Guardio offers a 7-day free trial which includes a free threats scan. Here's what Guardio can do for you:

  • Correct search redirects
  • Block suspicious sites, ads, and extensions
  • Scan your device for malware
  • Protect your online identity and inform you of any information leaks

Run a free security scan in a few clicks

Guardio is a Chrome extension that monitors suspicious activity and blocks hackers from stealing your data.

Verified by Google Chrome.

Instant Results.

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To install Guardio, follow these steps:

  1. Head over to the Chrome store and click “Add to Chrome”. Then confirm you want to add the extension.

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  1. Create an account. You can use an email address and password or you can use Facebook or Google for a faster sign-up process.

How to remove search redirects from Chrome - 02

  1. Grant permission to block intrusive pop-up notifications by clicking the button at the top-right part of the screen. Then click “Allow” to confirm.

How to remove search redirects from Chrome - 03

  1. On your dashboard, click “Hijackers”.

  2. Then select your preferred search engine.

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And you are all set, Guardio will work in the background to make sure threats such as search redirects, identity theft, virus downloaders, scams, compromised websites, malicious extensions, and more can’t harm you.

Reset your browser settings

As we mentioned above, sometimes malware changes your browser settings through a browser extension. To make sure you disable extensions that might be causing problems, reset your browser settings. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Click the hamburger menu at the top right part of your browser.

  2. Click "Settings"

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  1. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Advanced” to reveal more options.

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  1. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page again and under “Reset and clean up” click “Restore settings to their original defaults”.

How to remove search redirects from Chrome - 06

  1. A pop-up window will appear, click “Reset settings” to confirm.

How to remove search redirects from Chrome - 07

Important: If the malware was introduced by a browser extension and you enable them again, this process won’t necessarily work because the extension may change your settings again.

If after enabling your extensions again you identify the one causing the problem, uninstall it immediately to fully fix the problem.

Use Chrome’s clean-up tool

The last thing you should try is cleaning up your computer. Chrome has an integrated tool under the “Reset and clean up” section in your settings that helps you find harmful software on your computer and removes it.

To find it, follow the same steps we shared above until step #3, then do the following:

  1. Click “Clean up computer”.

Use Chromes clean-up tool to remove search redirects - 01

  1. Then click “Find” to start your computer scan.

Use Chromes clean-up tool to remove search redirects - 02

After the process is complete, Chrome might ask you to restart your computer. Do it and you’ll have finished removing any malware it finds on your computer.

Clear all browsing history, cookies, and cache

Check for apps or extensions you downloaded before the hijacker appeared. You likely got hijacked after installing that free software a few days ago.

Remove all system files associated with any software you suspect was the host for the hijacker. Despite deleting the program you downloaded, you may still have folders on your device that contain files related to the original download. It's time to get rid of these.

Reset browser. Reset your browser settings to your preferred search engine. By doing this, you'll be able to undo all the changes the hijacker has made to your settings.

Test your browser. open new tabs, click the homepage and use the search bar. You are good to go when everything seems to be back to normal.

How to remove search redirects from Firefox

Sometimes, when Firefox detects that you are likely to have been hijacked, it may automatically reset to the default search engine of your country. If this happens, you won’t need to do anything else to remove the search redirect.

This feature isn’t 100% accurate so you might have to manually change your preferred search engine. Here’s how to do it.

How to change your preferred search engine on Firefox

  1. At the top right part of your browser, click the hamburger menu to open the drop-down menu.

  2. Then click “Settings”.

  3. After that, click “Search”.

  4. And finally, choose your preferred search engine.

Avoid being hijacked again by following these steps:

Beware of free stuff. Who doesn't love free stuff? But unfortunately, free apps, extensions, movies, shows, and mods often hide malware or other threats. Be sure the free program you're downloading is legitimate before you download it.

Update your operating system constantly. Don't ignore software updates! Updates protect you from viruses and bugs, including browser hijacks.

Never click on attachments or links in emails from unknown senders. A suspicious email link or attachment may lead to a malicious website.

Monitor your device for early warning signs. If you know what to look for, you can catch the unwanted programs before they embed themselves too deeply in your device. If your browser is slow or unknown files appear in your downloads folder, don't shrug it off. Remove any suspicious programs immediately and run an antimalware scan.

To sum up…

If your browser is constantly being redirected to unwanted websites, search engines, or ads, you probably have malware installed on your computer. One common way search redirects happen is through browser extensions, toolbars, and ads online.

If you can’t change your home page, remove toolbars, or change your search settings, then your browser has most likely been hijacked.

To remove search redirects from Chrome, do the following:

  1. Install a browser protection tool like Guardio. Then choose your preferred search engine and stay safe against future dangers.
  2. Reset your browser settings to disable extensions that might be causing your problem.

We hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions about search redirects or how Guardio can help you stay safe online, don’t hesitate to reach out through our support team.

Safe Browsing!

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Guardio is a Chrome extension that monitors suspicious activity and blocks hackers from stealing your data.

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