Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to remove browser hooks from Internet Explorer

Remove Adware Browser Help Objects (BHO)
One of common target for spyware and adware is your browser. Often, it will take place in form of browser help objects (BHO) and unwanted toolbar. The reason is simple - that adware wants to track your browser activity and constantly popping up ads on your browsing session.

Even tough more computer users surf the internet using Mozilla Firefox, adware usually takes place as BHO and toolbar for Internet Explorer (IE). That's is because the flaws in security patch of IE is publicly known compared to Firefox.

Removing any adware using a spyware remover program

Using a spyware remover is highly recommended. Not only it is simple, but also it will delete unwanted objects. Even tough you can remove any BHO manually (will be explained soon), it is recommended that you try by using an antispyware first.

However, some antispyware program is just not good enough. Which is why, you need to choose an antispyware that performs well in test by independent parties.

So, what's the best antispyware program, that can detect most spyware, adware and malware ? The answer is Webroot SpySweeper. This one is highly rated by PC Magazine - among all antispyware that is tested in the same sample, this one detect most spyware. Now, SpySweeper is better since it can also detect lots of virus.
Want to try SpySweeper ? Get free virus and spyware scan with SpySweeper.

Another option ? This one is famous among all users - PCTools Spyware Doctor. The detection rate is high, and it is downloaded over one million per week.
Download Spyware Doctor.

Removing the BHO manually, from IE menu

Of course, you can always remove the IE BHO manually, using certain tools. The first one is by running your IE browser. In the main menu, select tools > manage add-ons. You can view any unwanted IE add-ons and remove them manually.

What if you can't find the manage add-ons function ? Then your Internet Explorer browser probably is not up-to-date. The manage add-ons function is available only for later version of IE. Nevertheless, you can try alternative method below.

What about alternate browser, such as Firefox ? In general, adware and spyware won't infect Firefox. But even if it does, Firefox has an option to remove unwanted add-ons. Run your Firefox browser. In the main menu, select Tools > Add-Ons. Uninstall any annoying toolbar there.

Remove BHO using HijackFree

Emsisoft has produced an easy-to-understand diagnostic tool called A-Squared HijackFree. By using HijackFree, you can view and analyze your system and make changes manually.

To use HijackFree, you need to download this tool from Emsisoft website. Please download the stand alone EXE, since it requires no installation.
Download HijackFree

Run the EXE file. You can menus on the left. Select Others section. Double click on Explorer AddOns. You can view and adjust related settings to your IE browser. That is including IE toolbars, shell extensions, shell hooks, browser help objects and downloaded activeX.

In the right panel, you can view all toolbars and BHO that is installed to your browser. Please, please make sure that an item is really malicious, before you select and delete it. Otherwise, it could lead to disaster.
Want to learn more about HjackFree ? Read full tutorial.

Remove BHO using HijackThis

Trend Micro HijackThis is another diagnostic tool. This one is well-known, compared to HijackFree. However, in general, both has the same function.

To use HijackThis, you'll need to download this tool from Trend Micro website. If you choose to download the executable, then you can use it right away, no installation required. Click here to download.

Run HijackThis. In the main menu, select Open The Misc Tools Section. Then, click on the Main button (above). The option "Make backups before fixing items" must be checked. Should you delete important system files or items, you can always restore it back.

Then, return to main menu by clicking "Main Menu" (below). In the main menu, press do a system scan and save a logfile. You can view the items and settings in your computer. Browser Help Objects and IE toolbars is tagged as BHO and toolbar in your scan result.

In this example, Google toolbar is the BHO. Hence, it is tagged as
"BHO: Google Toolbar Helper....."

If you know for sure, that an item is malicious, then check it, and click fixed checked. If you're not sure, better leave it alone, since removing important BHO could lead to further damage.

If you don't know how to use HijackThis properly, then you better leave the job to the experts at HijackThis forums.

Prevent unwanted toolbar and BHO

It is smart to take actions, before it could lead to future infection. To prevent any adware and spyware from taking control of your browser in the future, you need to make a few adjustment.

The first thing is, by installing the latest version of IE browser. Microsoft has improved the security patches for this browser, from time to another. The latest version also has features that allows you to remove unwanted BHO, as discussed above.

The second one, is by blocking any spyware and malware from hijacking IE, Firefox and Opera. Download and install Javacool's Spyware Blaster. This free tools is highly recommended by experts. It'll block any activeX based spyware and tracking cookies.

The third one, is by using alternative browser. A great alternative to IE is Mozilla Firefox. This one proofed to be better in security and browsing experience than IE. If you like the blue interface of IE browser, you can customize Firefox to look the same, by downloading theme like Vista Aero.

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