Browser hijacking is a particularly damaging piece of work plaguing small businesses across the country. With this method of hostile takeover, hackers use a remote URL to inject malware into the computer. While this in itself is not all that unusual for hackers, the ability of this malware to completely bypass a computer’s network security systems and firewalls is problematic. Then, there is the fact that the malware authenticates itself and becomes nearly impossible for even IT professionals to detect.
What Happens When a Browser is Hijacked?
The most recognizable thing about a hijacked browser is the fact that your home page changes. Most of the time, it changes to a search page. At other times, it may make certain websites (especially those related to security software, anti-spyware, etc.) inaccessible.
The malware may also change your toolbar, send an endless barrage of popup ads, or slow down your computer. While it seems innocent enough, though certainly annoying, most of these programs are spyware that operate with the intention of tracking data.
How are Browsers Hijacked?
In most cases, users have the “opportunity” to accept or decline the installation of the program. However, user requests to decline are generally ignored or presenting in such a confusing manner that they accidentally agree.
Risks to Small Businesses
Most small businesses don’t have the luxury of a full-time IT staff member, much less an entire department dedicated to keeping computers safe from intrusive and malicious software and hacking issues. The most immediately notable risk is the risk of lost time sorting and correcting the problems browser hijacking leaves behind.
The hidden risks, however, are the ones that are most worrisome to small business owners. You must figure out the level and degree of exposure your business faces. For instance, do you have sensitive information about your customers on your computers?
This may include physical addresses, full names, social security numbers, banking information, credit card information, and more. This leaves the door open for legal action against your small business if your customers become victims of identity theft.
Preventing Browser Hijacking
Indiana Community College, Ivy Tech, recommends several steps you can take to minimize your risks of browser hijacking including:
- Avoid disreputable websites
- Create company policies about safe Internet practices and enforce them
- Exercise caution when downloading items onto computers (many malware programs attach themselves to downloads you may believe you want)
- Install automatic browser updates
- Use and frequently update anti-spyware software
Regardless of your best efforts to avoid and prevent browser hijacking, you’re always at risk as hackers become more determined and more technologically savvy. Protect your small business by adding cyber liability insurance policy to your business insurance portfolio for added protection in the event that data breaches do occur.