Google Chrome Browser Gains More Hijacking Prevention Tools

Hackers are continuing to build malicious apps that hijack Chrome, so Google is giving users more tools to fight back.

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Last October, Google added a "reset browser settings" button to its Chrome Web browser so that users could easily restore control of their browsers if malicious software changed their user settings against their wishes.

Now Google is upping the ante by automatically prompting users to use the reset button if it appears that their browser settings have been changed by malicious apps.

The new automatic prompting feature was unveiled by Linus Upson, vice president of engineering for the Chrome browser, in a Jan. 31 post on the Google Chrome Blog. The additional browser setting recovery feature was added, he wrote, because "settings hijacking remains our number one user complaint."

With the new feature, "Chrome will be prompting Windows users whose settings appear to have been changed if they'd like to restore their browser settings back to factory default," wrote Upson. "If you've been affected by settings hijacking and would like to restore your settings, just click 'Reset' on the prompt … when it appears."

A pop-up window will appear during the automatic scan that will ask: "Reset altered Chrome settings?" By clicking reset, the default settings will again be used by the browser.

"Note that this will disable any extensions, apps and themes you have installed," wrote Upson. "If you'd like to reactivate any of your extensions after the reset, you can find and re-enable them by looking in the Chrome menu under 'More tools > Extensions.' Apps are automatically re-enabled the next time you use them."

For some users, however, the reset function may not be enough to restore full user control over the browser, he wrote. "Some hijackers are especially pernicious and have left behind processes that are meant to undermine user control of settings, so you may find that you're hijacked again after a short period of time. If that happens you can find additional help uninstalling such programs in the Chrome help forum—and remember even if you don't see the prompt, you can always restore Chrome to a fresh state by clicking the reset button in your Chrome settings."

The problem appears for many users when they are trying to download a free screensaver or game or something else that they want, but then also receive a malicious program that hijacks their browser settings, wrote Upson. "You're not the only one having this problem—in fact, it's an issue that's continuing to grow at an alarming rate."

The continued problems of such hijackings are the reason for Google's additional tools to help users with their Chrome settings.

That's where the original reset button tool came into play when it was introduced in October 2013, according to an earlier eWEEK report. It was designed to help users recover their browser settings when malicious apps load themselves and add toolbars or new settings or make other undesired changes. The reset button can be found in the "Advanced Settings" section of Chrome's settings page.

At the time, Google's Chrome team made another security change to help protect users by automatically blocking downloads of malware as they are detected by Google. A blocked download will issue a message on the user's screen advising him or her of the situation. The message will give the file name of the malicious application that is trying to download and then will tell the user that Chrome has blocked it.

In September 2013, the Chrome browser celebrated its fifth birthday. Launched in 2008 as a desktop or laptop application, Chrome today is widely used as a mobile browser on many different devices by users to browse the Web and conduct searches whether they are at home, at work, traveling or vacationing.

Chrome has had quite a ride since its birth. In June 2012, it surpassed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser for the first time, and it added lots of useful features over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.