Search.startbrowser.io Redirect Removal — Browser Restore Instructions
THREAT REMOVAL

Search.startbrowser.io Redirect Removal — Browser Restore Instructions

The article will help you to remove Search.startbrowser.io fully. Follow the browser hijacker removal instructions given at the end of the article.

The Search.startbrowser.io redirect is a recently discovered browser plugin that can be used for hijacker purposes. Interaction with it can hijack personal data belonging to the victims. Our in-depth article explores some of the dangers associated with its presence on infected hosts.

Threat Summary

NameSearch.startbrowser.io
TypeBrowser Hijacker, PUP
Short DescriptionThe hijacker redirect can alter the homepage, search engine and new tab on every browser application you have installed.
SymptomsThe homepage, new tab and search engine of all your browsers will be switched to Search.startbrowser.io. You will be redirected and could see sponsored content.
Distribution MethodFreeware Installations, Bundled Packages
Detection Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by Search.startbrowser.io

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User ExperienceJoin Our Forum to Discuss Search.startbrowser.io.

Search.startbrowser.io – Distribution Methods

The Search.startbrowser.io redirect is being distributed at computer victims using the most popular distribution techniques. The hackers behind the current attack campaign seem to utilize different methods at one in order to maximize the number of infected users.

One of the most effective ways to spread browser hijackers like this one is the set up of entries on the various browser plugin repositories. The criminal often employ fake developer credentials and user reviews along with an elaborate description. They can have many names and forms, not necessarily bearing the same name.

Another technique is the use of email SPAM messages that utilize various forms of social engineering attempts. A common technique is the creation of counterfeit notifications that appear as being sent by well-known Internet services. The criminals hijack the text, images and overall design of the legitimate sites. As such they are among the primary methods for delivering infected payloads. There are two primary types that are widely used to spread threats like this one:

  • Documents — The Search.startbrowser.io redirect can be installed via scripts that are integrated into files such as spreadsheets, presentations, databases and text documents. Once they are opened by the users a notification prompt appears that asks them to enable the built-in macros. When this is done the infection begins.
  • Application Installers — A similar technique can be used with software of different types. The infections are done by taking the legitimate installers from the official vendor sites and modifying them with the virus code.

In addition the hackers can utilize various dangerous web scripts that include all kinds of inline hyperlinks, redirects, pop-ups, banners and etc.

Search.startbrowser.io – Detailed Description

Once the Search.startbrowser.io redirect has been successfully installed on the victim hosts it will start to commit various web browser changes. This is done to all compatible software found on the client machines, usually the most popular web browsers are affected. The list includes Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge. Browser hijackers commonly start with a modification of the default settings in order to redirect the users to a hacker-controlled page: the default search engine, new tabs page and home page.

The next time the victims open their web browser windows they will be greeted by the hacker-made page which also institutes several tracking technologies: web beacons, cookies and etc. This is connected to the information gathering component of the redirects. There are two main categories of data that is grouped together:

  • Personal Data — The malicious engine hijacks data that can directly reveal the user’s identity. Examples of this includes the person’s name, address, telephone number, interests, location and etc. The collected data can then be used for identity theft or financial abuse crimes.
  • Campaign Metrics — The hackers can obtain information about the installed hardware components and certain operating system values in order to optimize the infection campaigns.

Following the successful installation of the relevant Search.startbrowser.io redirect code the associated infection engine can affect the Windows Registry. When modifications are made to the operating system entries overall performance may suffer. If the entries to any user-installed software are changed certain functions can stop working, this is also true for services.

Some forms of browser hijackers can install themselves as a persisten threat, this means that the code will start itself when the computer is booted. It may also disable other services and applications thereby rendering them non-working.

One of the most dangerous tactics associated with threats like the Search.startbrowser.io redirect is their ability to start a hacker-controlled server connection. This allows the operators to spy on the users in real time, take over control of their machines and also deploy additional threats to the infected hosts.

Once the users open their web browsers they will see a template-based home page that is modeled to look like legitimate web search engines. When the users open it up for the first time they will be prompted for their location data which will be automatically gathered via the built-in web beacon technologies. In addition various tracking cookies will be instituted that monitor their web activities.

It is made of three primary elements that are displayed on a white background:

  • Main Search Engine — It enables the users to enter in search queries which are redirected to another service. We remind our readers that all entered content may return results that may not indicate the best possible sites. Some hijackers are also known to redirect the users to malware, virus-infected or phishing sites. This is the reason why we recommend that users restore their browsers as soon as possible.
  • Web Links — Below the search engine there are several web services that are organized in a grid-like manner. They may differ according to each user and may not represent the legitimate site. In some cases security researchers report that they can redirect to a scam site.
  • Bottom Menu Bar — This part of the site contains the links to the privacy policy and terms of use documents.

Search.startbrowser.io – Privacy Policy

The privacy policy redirects the users to a document hosted on Airfind’s site. This means that the service Search.startbrowser.io redirect is either operated by them or is a partner site. Like other similar cases it starts to gather sensitive data about the users and their devices which is pooled into databases that are shared among different sites. They may be accessed for a certain fee and used to drive personalized ads to the users. 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 system 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 Search.startbrowser.io Browser Hijacker

To remove Search.startbrowser.io 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.

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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