Unwanted browser tab

by IanB on November 5, 2009

Q: I have a problem when I go on the internet via Google. I get a second tab opening which I haven’t asked for and which I have to close to get back to my original site. To be precise, if I go to my bank’s website, within seconds, a second tab will open (replacing the original on the screen), from a loan company not related to my bank at all, also I get adverts for Tesco, or even what appears to be a holiday page for Florida! My Norton 360 insists I have no virus or spyware on my machine, so what is this problem, and how do I get back to normal browsing? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

A: This has all the classic signs of a browser hijack, where malware takes over your Web browser to impose a page other than the one you were asking for. Often this occurs because you’ve installed an additional toolbar in your browser – perhaps as part of installing another program.

The first step is to check if you have any third-party toolbars enabled. In Internet Explorer, open the Tools menu and go to Manage Add-ons. From here you can see what’s being loaded along with your browser. If you spot anything you’re not sure of you can choose to disable it and see what happens. If you’re running Firefox you can do the same thing via Tools, Add-ons.

You may be lucky and solve the problem in that way, however, it’s more likely that the malware is quite deeply embedded. In which case boot the machine into Safe Mode by pressing F8 at startup and run a dedicated anti-spyware tool such as Spybot – Search and Destroy to check for and remove infections. If that doesn’t solve the problem scan the system with HijackThis – using Vista’s Run as Administrator option – and look for BHO (Browser Helper Object) entries, you can Google the file names of these to find out what they are. You need to be careful using HijackThis because not everything that it identifies is bad so don’t remove anything you’re unsure of. Once you’ve got rid of the problem it’s worth installing SpywareBlaster to help prevent reinfection.

HijackThis can help you identify unwanted toolbars and browser helper objects

HijackThis can help you identify unwanted toolbars and browser helper objects

Originally featured in PCU116

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

M.L.L. November 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm

I would suggest that you sever all connections with PC Tools software. If you want to know why, just check the complaints listed on the internet. It sure will keep me from buying another PC Tools magazine. I can not trust any of your endorsements of PC Tools software, and in extension, any other. I suspect, your evaluations might be bogus. I too, got burned by PC Tools questionable business practices. In more than 20 years working on computers, the program I had purchased from PC Tools, acted as a very virulent infection, much more so as the “real virus” my computer had some years ago. I am sure you will file this note in the “round” file.

IanB December 7, 2009 at 3:15 pm

We have no commercial connection with PC Tools (www.pctools.com) software. They are, however, a legitimate company and we’ve had no problems with their software. All of the software that goes on out cover discs is carefully checked and scanned for problems before the disc is sent for reproduction.

They were criticised some time ago for auto-renewing antivirus subscriptions, but as far as we’re aware have provided refunds for anyone who fell foul of this.


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