What Is Browser Hijacking?

Whether you use the internet for recreational or commercial purposes, you should take precautions to protect against browser hijacking. While some forms of browser hijacking are simply a nuisance, others pose a serious risk to your privacy as well as the security of your devices.

The Basics of Browser Hijacking

Web browser hijacking, or what’s more commonly known simply as browser hijacking, is a cyber threat that involves the use of malicious or unwanted software to alter your web browser’s settings. It’s called “browser hijacking” because a hacker or some other nefarious person “hijacks” your browser.

A common example of browser hijacking is the forced installation of a toolbar. Not all browser toolbars are bad. Some offer enhanced functionality that can improve the browser’s performance or user experience. Others, however, may be used to serve ads while you browse the internet. If an unwanted toolbar appears on your browser, it could be the result of browser hijacking.

The Risks of Browser Hijacking

Why should you be concerned about browser hijacking? Depending on the way in which the hacker changes your browser settings, it may cause your browser to automatically redirect to different addresses. You may try to visit Google.com, for example, only for your browser to take you to a different, smaller search engine.

Browser hijacking can also consume bandwidth. Most instances of browser hijacking are designed to serve ads. Therefore, they’ll spam your browser with banners, pop-ups and other intrusive digital ads, all of which require network resources to download.

A hacker may hijack your browser to capture or steal your data. If the hacker installs keylogging malware on your browser, for instance, he or she may have a record of all your usernames, passwords and anything else that you type while using the infected browser.

How to Protect Against Browser Hijacking

You can protect against browser hijacking by following some basic cybersecurity tips. First and foremost, keep your browser — or browsers if you use more than one — up to date. When a new version of the browser is released, download and install it as soon as possible. If your browser is outdated, it may contain a vulnerability that allows a hacker to alter its settings through the use of unwanted software.

Running antivirus software on the same computer or device on which the browser is installed can also lower your risk of browser hijacking. Because browser hijacking uses unwanted software, most types of antivirus software will catch it.