Here's why viruses keep trying to change your default search engine

Here's why viruses keep trying to change your default search engine
  • Attackers hijack default search engines and web pages using viruses.
  • Many users may not immediately notice that their search engine has changed, allowing these viruses to fly under the radar.
  • Attackers then make money by earning referral fees from search engines.
At some point, we’ve all had our computers infected by viruses. While it’s not easy to determine exactly what viruses do, in many cases they hijack the victim’s default search engine.

This may seem trivial initially – many victims might not even realize what has happened. That’s because they don’t lose data due and their computers seem to run fine. However, viruses fly under the radar.

Search engines are a multi-billion-dollar industry

The search engine industry is worth billions of dollars. In the US alone, companies spend an estimated $80 billion on search engine optimization (SEO).
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This makes it lucrative for cybercriminals and hackers to create viruses that change the browser and search engines on victims’ computers. When a victim uses the search engine and clicks on an ad on the results page, the search engine earns money.

In turn, hijackers earn money via referral fees that they charge to these search engines.

How do these hijackers change your search engine

There are several ways in which cybercriminals and hijackers change your default search engine. Malwarebytes has listed some of the most common ways:

Start page

Start page is the easiest to hijack. It is the first thing that shows up when you launch the browser. These pages display the search bar prominently, so most users end up using it.

New tab page

The new tab page is pretty much like the start page and has the search bar displayed prominently.

Modifying your search engine

Almost all modern browsers allow you to search using the address bar as well. Viruses change the default search engine here as well.

Search page

Taking it a step further, some viruses also install browser extensions to modify data on a web page. As a result, you might start seeing excessive ads, results and web page redirects.

See also:

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