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Stop Homepage Hijacking

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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Stop Homepage Hijacking

We get e-mail from people all the time telling us that their homepage has been changed without their permission (Internet Explorer). Most of the time, a quick trip to the Tools menu, Internet Options will let you reset the page.

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However, sometimes it’s an even bigger problem. Some folks find that each time they re-boot their computer, their homepage switches back to the unwanted one and no amount of screaming seems to help. What’s going on? How did their web browser get hijacked?

There are several ways this can happen, both for a simple homepage change and the nastier, seemingly permanent change.

First, some web pages will ask you if you want to make them your homepage. If you hit Yes, then it’s a done deal. After all, you can’t be too surprised that your homepage was changed after you told your browser it was OK.

However…

Some will modify this question to something like “Do you like freebies?”. When you hit Yes, it secretly changes your homepage on you.

Most of the time, the same dialog box that’s asking you if you like freebies (or whatever) will also say something to the effect that it’s going to reset your homepage. They try to distract you from that message and just get you to click “Yes”. So, be careful.

Fortunately, when your homepage is switched in the ways outlined above, going to the Tools Menu, Internet Options will let you set your page back to whatever you want (of course, you’ll need to know the address of your homepage). Normally, that takes care of the problem and you’re back to normal again.

Another way your homepage can get switched is through a security hole in Iinternet Explorer (yeah, I know, imagine that). As long as you keep your browser up to date, this shouldn’t be a problem though. If it does get switched through this security hole, it’s my understanding that generally a script is placed in the Startup menu (Start button, Programs, Startup) that will reset the homepage each time Windows loads. Deleting it should let you switch back your homepage permanently. Oh, and make sure you update IE if you aren’t in the habit of doing it. That’s one nasty little security hole!

Finally, software can even be a problem. Some programs will load automatically when you start windows and the first thing they do is to reset your homepage. You may be able to disable this though their options area (don’t hold your breath though). Best bet is to disable or get rid of any program you catch doing this.

OK, but if it is a program that’s switching your homepage, how do you figure out which one it is? Well, if your browser’s homepage was reset to the homepage of a particular software company (who’s software you just installed), you probably aren’t going to expend too much mental energy figuring out who done it.

(Believe it or not, UPS had a program that reset their customer’s homepage to UPS’s homepage – it’s not just little guys doing this. Of course, it was “on accident”, which begs the question, “How do you accidentally stick a code in that manipulates the end user’s homepage?”).

Anyhow…

If you have no clue where the homepage in question came from, then look back on recently installed programs. Did your homepage change right after you installed a particular program? If so, you may have a place to start looking.

Seems that most of the time, these type of programs run from the Startup folder (mentioned above). So, if you see something in there that shouldn’t be (or you’re not sure), you may want to remove the item, reset your homepage back to one you actually want (like www.worldstart.com :-), then see if it stays.

Oh, one last thing – watch out for install programs too. Some of them have an option for resetting your homepage that’s checked or selected by default (you know, for your convenience).

Whew, that’s enough of that. Be careful out there everyone wants you to use their homepage for your homepage and they’ll go to just about any length to make it happen.

~Steve

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