How To : Clean and Reliable Browser

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Lets say you selected the right browser for your needs. Also you carefully selected the search engine extensions, addons and what not. In fact you feel that the browser is just tailored for you. And then, that awful thing happens.

  • All your searches are directed to some search engine you never heard of or want to.
  • You favorite home page is taken over by some other page that is aesthetically unpleasant at the least (and you can no more change it!).
  • And you don’t even want to talk about those annoying pop-up.
  • The address you type is maliciously ‘auto-corrected’, etc.
The Bad News : Your browser is just taken over by an unwanted toolbar or ad-ware or spyware. Lets just call them as malware in general. It is called ‘Browser Hijacking’.
The Good News : Fortunately there are some very good software that can help you get rid of these annoying malware.

A reliable and clean browser automatically means improved productivity.

 

The Clean-Up

Its a given that simply a re-install of the browser wont work. Lets see the required steps.

STEP 1: Manual Uninstall
The first step would be to manually uninstalling as many unwanted programs or Add-ons as possible.
From Control Panel :
Go to start → control panel → Uninstall a program.
Now go through the list of programs and identify any unwanted programs.
This is a list of most common offenders:

  • Ask Toolbar
  • AOL Toolbar
  • Crawler Toolbar
  • Conduit Toolbar
  • MyWebSearch
  • Regsitry Power Cleaner
  • Open Candy
  • Smart Shopper
  • SmileyCentral or any other smiley related
  • Sweet IM
  • WeatherBug

Uninstall them one by one and restart if necessary.
From Browsers:
Some malware can’t be found in the installed program list. Because most of them gets install as ‘plugins’ or ‘extensions’ of that particular browsers. So we have to remove them directly from the browsers.

Internet Explorer
IE will be the worst, because every browser malware targets IE by default. But the new versions of IE are bit more intelligent (a bit less dumb ?) to allow unwanted toolbars or search plug-ins to take over. But nevertheless it happens.

If a new toolbar/addon is installed, newer IE versions asks the user if it should enable it. User should use discretion when choosing add-ons.

Now, go to
Settings(top right corner) → Internet Options → Advanced → Reset → again press Reset.

Resetting will remove all add-ons in IE.

Now all the toolbars and extensions will be removed.

Firefox
Go to Firefox menu → Add-ons → Extensions. Identify and remove unwanted add-ons.

Google Chrome
Go to Menu Icon (Top Right) → Tools → Extensions. Identify and remove unwanted extensions.

Restart the browsers.

STEP 2 : Using Anti-Malware Tools
Depending on the type of infection, STEP 1 might be either eventful or otherwise. In both cases the malware leaves traces of it, like search still goes to another search provider rather than the one you choose, inability to change homepage etc. We can handle this by using Anti-Malware Tools.
Install and scan with any two of these tools.

If some how you are unable to install the above tools, resident malware might be preventing them from installing. In this case install and scan with Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool. Remember, install Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool only if the above tools fail.
Then redo STEP 2. You can uninstall these tools after malware removal is complete. But it is good practice that you keep at least one of them. SpyBot – Search & Destroy is recommended, see ‘The Prevention, step1’.
Now, you should have a clean browser without any more of that annoyance!

The Prevention

This section concentrates on maintaining a clean browser by preventing any future malware installations.

STEP 1:Install Anti-Malware
Install any one of the Anti-Malware tools.

I recommend SpyBot – Search & Destroy. It is a very good Anti-Spyware and Anti-Malware software. Because it specifically protects browsers from hijacks. It will protect browsers from any future hijacks. Spybot calls this feature Immunization.

In the system tray area (beside the system time), right click on the ‘SpyBot – Search & Destroy’ icon. Click ‘Immunization’.

Spybot ‘Immunization’ – It prevents browser hijacks and unwanted toolbar installations.

In the windows click on ‘Check System’. When the scan completes, click ‘Apply Immunization’. Now the listed browsers in the window are protected from any future malware attacks (browser hijacks).

STEP 2: Awareness
Most of the malware might passed right before our eyes. When we install software, its a few ‘next’ clicks and than an ‘Install’. But in between them, many (supposedly free) programs offers to install toolbars or other unrelated programs.

Weather Watcher offers to install a toolbar. You can simply uncheck and opt out of the installation of the toolbar.

So next time when installing a software it pays to notice if it installing any unwanted software. It might prevent you from hassling with you browser in the first place.

But not all software are so forthcoming about their toolbar offerings. Some might silently install a software and leave the user scratching about how the homepage is suddenly changed.

So next time you download a software, install from a site which states if software install any adware or irrelevant software (like toolbars). One such site is Softpedia [www.softpedia.com].

Softpedia lists out unrelated software installed by the program.

It will list out any toolbar or adware is installed by the software.

The Conclusion

A browse is a window to the internet. The cleaner and more convenient it is, better are our chances of improved productivity and the opposite is equally true. The right software and awareness will help us get rid of this ‘browser hijack’ menace.

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