THREAT REMOVAL

Instasrch.com Redirect Removal — How To Restore Your Browser

Instasrch.com redirect browser hijacker image

The article will help you to remove Instasrch.com fully. Follow the browser hijacker removal instructions given at the end of the article.

The Instasrch.com redirect is a browser hijacker that has recently been discovered by the security community due to user reports of infections. The thorough security analysis reveals that it may be part of a large network that seeks to gather sensitive information about the visitors. In addition it can be used by hacker operators for crimes, including virus delivery and computer infections. Our thorough removal instructions shows how victims can recover their machines.

Threat Summary

Name Instasrch.com
Type Browser Hijacker, PUP
Short Description The hijacker redirect can alter the homepage, search engine and new tab on every browser application you have installed.
Symptoms The homepage, new tab and search engine of all your browsers will be switched to Instasrch.com. You will be redirected and could see sponsored content.
Distribution Method Freeware Installations, Bundled Packages
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by malware

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Malware Removal Tool

User Experience Join Our Forum to Discuss Instasrch.com.

Instasrch.com – Distribution Methods

The Instasrch.com redirect can be distributed to targets using different tactics. Usually different mechanisms are used at once in order to increase the infection ratio.

Redirects like this one are usually distributed via browser hijackers. They are often found on the relevant plugin repository for the most popular web browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge. The hackers behind it often use counterfeit developer credentials and user reviews.

The infections can also be carried out through email messages. They are usually sent out in bulk and use various social engineering tricks in order to convince the users to interact with the dangerous elements. The infected files can be either attached directly or hyperlinked in the body contents. They are also the main carriers of infected payloads. There are two popular types:

  • Infected Documents — The hackers can embed the dangerous scripts in documents (text files, presentations, databases, spreadsheets and etc.) by using scripts (macros). Once they are opened by the victims a notification prompt appears which asks the users to enable them. When this is done the infection follows.
  • Software Installers — The hackers can embed the virus code into popular application installers. This is usually done by taking the legitimate file from the official vendors and modifying them to include the malicious code. Popular software are targeted such as system utilities, creativity suites, productivity and office tools and etc.

The criminals behind the Instasrch.com can attempt to create counterfeit download portals that are modeled after the templates of well-known Internet sites. The criminals behind the threat can also create dangerous web scripts that can infect the users via pop-ups, banners, redirects and etc.

In the last few year we have seen an increase in the spread of viruses through file sharing networks. The files are mostly disguised as popular applications, images, ebooks or other content that may be of user interest. The majority of infections of this type are caused via BitTorrent trackers.

The hackers can also use advanced virus infections, Trojans and ransomware in order to spread browser hijackers like this one.

Instasrch.com – Detailed Description

The Instasrch.com redirect is a typical case of a browser hijacker that seeks to infect as many users as possible. The classic infection scheme follows a well-known behavior pattern. The first changes are done to the affected browsers — the users will be automatically redirected to a hacker-controlled site (in this case the hijacker’s main domain). The manipulated settings are the following: default home page, search engine and new tabs.

As the infections originate from the web browsers the criminals can also take over all stored contents within: history, cookies, bookmarks, settings, passwords and etc. When the browser hijackers use a data gathering component it can accumulate information that can reveal the victim’s identity. This is especially dangerous as they are programmed to harvest strings such as the user’s name, address, telephone number, interests, location and passwords. The resulting database can be used for identity theft and related crimes.

If the malicious engine is configured it can also modify the Windows Registry. Consequences of it can be the disruption of application features and services and overall system performance. This can lead to a potential persistent installation of the threat. This makes it execute every time the computer boots.

Some browser hijackers have the ability to act as Trojans by establishing a connection with a hacker-controlled server. It can harvest the obtained information and also spy on the victims in real-time. This module also allows the hacker operators to take over control of the victim machines at any given time. Another use for it is the distribution of additional payloads: ransomware, viruses and etc.

The main hijacker site itself is fairy basic and based on a familiar template. There is a main search engine placed on the top part of a white background. Below it are several search engines or Internet service links. At the moment there are three available options: Home Portal, Google Search and Bing Search. On the very bottom of the page there are links to the privacy policy and terms of use documents.

Our analysis reveals that the site is being operated by a company called AirFind which doesn’t mean that the company is harvesting all the data. It is possible that it has been ordered by a client or that the hackers have merely copied their privacy policy or terms of use documents in order to hide themselves.

The company’s official site shows that one of their core products and services is to deliver personalized solutions for advertising and content monetization. This leads us to believe that the site may be an order made for their customers. This explains the vast number of collected personal data and the included tracking technology.

Reviewing the AirFind site we can see that the company can link the site with other products and services that it develops:

  • Search Widget — This interactive element can be integrated in the home screen and would allow the victims to use the hacker-controlled search engine in an easier manner.
  • Intent-Based Content — The company allows their clients to customize the hijacker sites with content that is geared towards the victim’s interests.
  • Recommendation Engine — The company has developed an algorithm that allows the site operators to offer software applications via an automated script area.

We anticipate that the app recommendation engine can be used for malicious purposes if it is used in combination with a payload delivery instance.

WARNING! All interactions with the sites and proposed links may lead to other hacker-controlled sites or lead to virus infections.

Instasrch.com – Privacy Policy

Any personally-identifiable information if the consent is given — full name, email address, phone number, physical address, and access to contacts stored on mobile devices.

The privacy policy redirects to a document hosted on another domain airfind[dot]com which shows that the Instasrch.com domain name is a mirror or a copy of the same service. This reveals the fact that the company behind it (AirFind Corp) has probably made large networks of similar sites that all aim to harvest sensitive information which is stored in databases.

By merely accessing the site places multiple tracking technology pieces onto the victim’s computers (cookies, analytics and other code). The privacy policy reveals that the following information is being harvested automatically :

  • Any personally-identifiable information if the consent is given — full name, email address, phone number, physical address, and access to contacts stored on mobile devices.
  • Personal Data received from third parties — This is usually through accessed social network services — Google, Facebook, or Twitter and the like.
  • Analytics information — All site interactions are recorded and relayed to the hacker operators.
  • Cookies information — Obtained from the installed cookies.
  • Log file information — The server logs record all manners of user interactions.
  • Clear gifs/web beacons information — They are used to track the online usage patterns of the visitors.
  • Device Identifiers — Unique device identifiers (UDID) belonging to each visitor device are logged. They may reveal the hardware components contained within, stored data, operating sytem configuration strings and other personal information.
  • Location data — This paragraph reads that the hacker operators can access GPS coordinates and other information that can reveal the user’s exact location.
  • Other Information — All other similar data that can reveal useful information may be hijacked as well.

Remove Instasrch.com Browser Hijacker

To remove Instasrch.com manually from your computer, follow the step-by-step removal instructions given below. In case the manual removal does not get rid of the browser hijacker entirely, you should search for and remove any leftover items with an advanced anti-malware tool. Such software helps keep your computer secure in the future. We remind our readers that certain hijackers (most likely this one as well) are configured to harvest the information to a database shared with other similar threats.

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Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer

How to Remove Instasrch.com from Windows.


Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove Instasrch.com

OFFER

Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your PC with SpyHunter

Keep in mind, that SpyHunter’s scanner is only for malware detection. If SpyHunter detects malware on your PC, you will need to purchase SpyHunter's malware removal tool to remove the malware threats. Read our SpyHunter 5 review. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria

1. Hold Windows key() + R


2. The "Run" Window will appear. In it, type "msconfig" and click OK.


3. Go to the "Boot" tab. There select "Safe Boot" and then click "Apply" and "OK".
Tip: Make sure to reverse those changes by unticking Safe Boot after that, because your system will always boot in Safe Boot from now on.


4. When prompted, click on "Restart" to go into Safe Mode.


5. You can recognise Safe Mode by the words written on the corners of your screen.


Step 2: Uninstall Instasrch.com and related software from Windows

Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it. To do that:


1. Hold the Windows Logo Button and "R" on your keyboard. A Pop-up window will appear.


2. In the field type in "appwiz.cpl" and press ENTER.


3. This will open a window with all the programs installed on the PC. Select the program that you want to remove, and press "Uninstall"
Follow the instructions above and you will successfully uninstall most programs.


Step 3: Clean any registries, created by Instasrch.com on your computer.

The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by Instasrch.com there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:

1. Open the Run Window again, type "regedit" and click OK.


2. When you open it, you can freely navigate to the Run and RunOnce keys, whose locations are shown above.


3. You can remove the value of the virus by right-clicking on it and removing it.
Tip: To find a virus-created value, you can right-click on it and click "Modify" to see which file it is set to run. If this is the virus file location, remove the value.

IMPORTANT!
Before starting "Step 4", please boot back into Normal mode, in case you are currently in Safe Mode.
This will enable you to install and use SpyHunter 5 successfully.

Step 4: Scan for Instasrch.com with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool

1. Click on the "Download" button to proceed to SpyHunter's download page.


It is recommended to run a scan before purchasing the full version of the software to make sure that the current version of the malware can be detected by SpyHunter. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria.


2. After you have installed SpyHunter, wait for it to update automatically.

SpyHunter5-update-2018


3. After the update process has finished, click on the 'Malware/PC Scan' tab. A new window will appear. Click on 'Start Scan'.

SpyHunter5-Free-Scan-2018


4. After SpyHunter has finished scanning your PC for any files of the associated threat and found them, you can try to get them removed automatically and permanently by clicking on the 'Next' button.

SpyHunter-5-Free-Scan-Next-2018

If any threats have been removed, it is highly recommended to restart your PC.


Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer

Get rid of Instasrch.com from Mac OS X.


Step 1: Uninstall Instasrch.com and remove related files and objects

OFFER
Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your Mac with SpyHunter for Mac
Keep in mind, that SpyHunter for Mac needs to purchased to remove the malware threats. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter’s EULA and Privacy Policy


1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:


2. Find Activity Monitor and double-click it:


3. In the Activity Monitor look for any suspicious processes, belonging or related to Instasrch.com:

Tip: To quit a process completely, choose the “Force Quit” option.


4. Click on the "Go" button again, but this time select Applications. Another way is with the ⇧+⌘+A buttons.


5. In the Applications menu, look for any suspicious app or an app with a name, similar or identical to Instasrch.com. If you find it, right-click on the app and select “Move to Trash”.


6: Select Accounts, after which click on the Login Items preference. Your Mac will then show you a list of items that start automatically when you log in. Look for any suspicious apps identical or similar to Instasrch.com. Check the app you want to stop from running automatically and then select on the Minus (“-“) icon to hide it.


7: Remove any left-over files that might be related to this threat manually by following the sub-steps below:

  • Go to Finder.
  • In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
  • Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
  • If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.

In case you cannot remove Instasrch.com via Step 1 above:

In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:

Disclaimer! If you are about to tamper with Library files on Mac, be sure to know the name of the virus file, because if you delete the wrong file, it may cause irreversible damage to your MacOS. Continue on your own responsibility!

1: Click on "Go" and Then "Go to Folder" as shown underneath:

2: Type in "/Library/LauchAgents/" and click Ok:

3: Delete all of the virus files that have similar or the same name as Instasrch.com. If you believe there is no such file, do not delete anything.

You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:

→ ~/Library/LaunchAgents
/Library/LaunchDaemons

Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.


Step 2: Scan for and remove malware from your Mac

When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts, programs and malware, the recommended way of eliminating the threat is by using an anti-malware program. Combo Cleaner offers advanced security features along with other modules that will improve your Mac’s security and protect it in the future.



Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer


Remove Instasrch.com from Google Chrome.


Step 1: Start Google Chrome and open the drop menu


Step 2: Move the cursor over "Tools" and then from the extended menu choose "Extensions"


Step 3: From the opened "Extensions" menu locate the unwanted extension and click on its "Remove" button.


Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Google Chrome by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.


Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer


Erase Instasrch.com from Mozilla Firefox.

Step 1: Start Mozilla Firefox. Open the menu window


Step 2: Select the "Add-ons" icon from the menu.


Step 3: Select the unwanted extension and click "Remove"


Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Mozilla Firefox by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.



Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer


Uninstall Instasrch.com from Microsoft Edge.


Step 1: Start Edge browser.


Step 2: Open the drop menu by clicking on the icon at the top right corner.


Step 3: From the drop menu select "Extensions".


Step 4: Choose the suspected malicious extension you want to remove and then click on the gear icon.


Step 5: Remove the malicious extension by scrolling down and then clicking on Uninstall.



Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer


Remove Instasrch.com from Safari.


Step 1: Start the Safari app.


Step 2: After hovering your mouse cursor to the top of the screen, click on the Safari text to open its drop down menu.


Step 3: From the menu, click on "Preferences".

stf-safari preferences


Step 4: After that, select the 'Extensions' Tab.

stf-safari-extensions


Step 5: Click once on the extension you want to remove.


Step 6: Click 'Uninstall'.

stf-safari uninstall

A pop-up window will appear asking for confirmation to uninstall the extension. Select 'Uninstall' again, and the Instasrch.com will be removed.


How to Reset Safari
IMPORTANT: Before resetting Safari make sure you back up all your saved passwords within the browser in case you forget them.

Start Safari and then click on the gear leaver icon.

Click the Reset Safari button and you will reset the browser.


Windows Mac OS X Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Internet Explorer


Eliminate Instasrch.com from Internet Explorer.


Step 1: Start Internet Explorer.


Step 2: Click on the gear icon labeled 'Tools' to open the drop menu and select 'Manage Add-ons'


Step 3: In the 'Manage Add-ons' window.


Step 4: Select the extension you want to remove and then click 'Disable'. A pop-up window will appear to inform you that you are about to disable the selected extension, and some more add-ons might be disabled as well. Leave all the boxes checked, and click 'Disable'.


Step 5: After the unwanted extension has been removed, restart Internet Explorer by closing it from the red 'X' button located at the top right corner and start it again.


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