CoolWebSearch – the most infamous browser hijacker

Browser hijackers are malicious programs that alter web browser settings without asking for user permission. These parasites change default home and search pages to certain web sites, modify essential browser settings decreasing security and privacy levels. Some of them disable several browser functions, add unwanted bookmarks, display commercial advertisements, etc. From the first sight hijackers appear to be relatively harmless: browser settings can be easily restored, you even may switch to a different safe browser. But imagine what happens if a hijacker has spyware or virus functions and you will get the full picture.

Plenty of such parasites pretend to violate Internet users privacy. However, one pest is the most “popular” – CoolWebSearch. It is a single name for the entire family of different hijackers that all attempt to redirect your browser to coolwebsearch.com domain (it belongs to CoolWebSearch.com company) or other related sites. CoolWebSearch.com claims that it is not responsible for the hijacking. Apparently that is true. The company has an affiliate program and pays its clients for every user redirected to its site. For more details please visit http://www.coolwebsearch.com/security and http://www.coolwebsearch.com/hijacking.html.

Since the middle of 2003 more than 40 CoolWebSearch (shortly CWS) variants were discovered. Only about 15 of them can be less or more easily removed from the system. Others require deep registy editing, searching for and deleting many files and numerous modifications of the infected system. Moreover, some CWS parasites are virtually impossible to remove manually. They use special techniques that sometimes are more complex than those used in dangerous viruses. Even special anti-spyware software is unable to get rid of certain CWS hijackers. Spyware professionals say that the most effective way to fight the CWS infection is to restore the Windows registry from unaffected copy or even to erase all the data from hard disk and reinstall the OS.

However, there are some products that are able to remove up to 80% of CWS pests. One of them is a special tool called CWShredder (published by Trend Micro). It is the most effective anti-CWS solution. Powerful anti-spyware software, such as SpyHunter, Microsoft AntiSpyware or Ad-Aware also may help.

Here are the symptoms of most common CWS infections:

1. Microsoft Internet Explorer runs very slowly. Browser doesn’t respond immediately to taken actions. Text that you enter in various web forms or fields appears with huge latency. Page scrolling is sluggish.
2. Default browser settings has been modified. Default start or search pages are changed (for example, address about:blank doesn’t belong to standard blank page anymore). Mistyped or even correct Internet addresses direct to unknown sites. Suspicious domains are listed in browser’s Trusted sites zone.
3. New bookmarks to suspicious Internet resources have appeared in the Favorites. Usually, such bookmarks lead to adult and advertising sites.
4. Following a legitimate link on legal web site results in automatic redirection to different resource.
5. Your system shows strange error messages. Some of them are caused by system components or third-party executables.
6. Security-related software crashes or closes without any messages.


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