Malware is everywhere. If a malicious program, or malware, attacks your system and begins to direct your web activity - changing your default home page, directing you to sites where you donít want to go - it is likely that your browser has been hijacked.
Before figuring out what to do, take a quick look at the following to see if a hijacker is most likely to blame for your problems:
- If your default home page or your search engine has been changed, a hijacker may be to blame. First rule out interference from another user. Make sure someone using your PC hasnít made the switch. If you are an Internet Explorer user, try Internet Options to change your options back, using the Tools Menu. If this doesnít work, odds are a hijacker rather than a co-worker has changed your settings;
- If youíre seeing a lot more pop-ups and/or pop ups from sites you normally
do not visit;
- If suddenly you are seeing bookmarks or pop-ups for pornographic or obscene material;
- If sites you donít know start appearing in your "favorites" menu;
- If you start getting re-directed to sites you never tried to visit; or
- If you canít access sites you want to reach.
There are some steps you can take to boot the hijackers out - even if you are not especially technologically savvy.
- Invest in a proven program that identifies and sweeps hijackers out. Youíve got several good choices at reasonable cost available, including: Ad-Aware from www.lavasoftusa.com and SpySweeper from www.spysweeper.com. A free program is also available for downloading from www.safer-networking.org and other sources offer free software, too. Once youíve installed them, make sure you run them frequently.
- If you think several malware programs have infiltrated your system, you might want to start with a clean slate. If so, download and install a new Host file for your system (this is the portal where hijackers make changes to the file that acts like an address book for URLs to gain access to your system). You can install a new Hosts file by reaching www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm. This file will provide many new additions to block known hijackers.
- If a hijacker has changed your settings, and you canít reverse the changes through the Tools program, you can address the problem through your Registry. A word of caution, before editing Registry entries, back up your system. If you open the Registry, look for an entry "inetcple.cpl" listed in HKEY_Current_User\ControlPanel\donít load. If you find this entry, you should delete it and restart your entire system. Again, editing the Registry needs caution-always back up your system first and get technical help if you are uncertain of your next steps.
Once youíve cleaned up your system, remember that prevention is a whole lot easier and less expensive than any cure. Keep your anti-virus software protection renewed and updated. Set your system so that you receive all high-priority Internet Explorer updates from Microsoft automatically - that way youíll get the protection of updated security patches as soon as they are available. Encourage your employees, or associates, to be vigilant and to report a rapid increase in pop-ups or unusual activity involving unfamiliar Web pages.