Your Computer is NOT Infected: What You Need to Know About Malicious Redirects
Malicious redirects are a fairly common annoyance while browsing the internet. You may encounter one if you are redirected to a website that you did not wish to visit, are shown pop-up advertisements, or have alarming pop-up notifications alerting you that your computer is infected by a virus.
Your computer is NOT infected. These types of redirects and pop ups are caused by the website itself.
What is a Malicious Redirect?
Malicious redirects are bits of code that are injected into the core files of a website. They are designed to divert website visitors to a specified, unrelated site that often contains adverts, pornography, potentially unwanted programs or browser extensions.
These issues are with the website itself and are unrelated to your computer. While is is important to have a good anti-virus software installed to help protect you from threats and vulnerabilities, anti-virus software cannot help with these redirects.
Many times, webmasters aren’t even aware that their website has been compromised. And even if they do notice that something is amiss, malicious redirect scripts are often heavily obfuscated, making it difficult for website owners to identify and remove the offending lines of code.
These redirects can occur on both PC (Windows) and Mac (Apple) computers. They can occur in any web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, etc). They can also occur on all smartphones and tablets.
Why do hackers create Malicious Redirects?
- Money: Hackers us redirects to drive traffic to websites that contain alarming popups claiming your computer is infected or for advertisements for products or services. The criminals are hoping that you will call the number for their fake technical support and hand over credit card information or allow them remote access to your computer so they can install malicious software.
- Phishing: Redirects can be used to send you to fraudulent websites where you’re encouraged to enter in usernames, passwords, or credit card information. This information is then used to commit identity fraud.
- Malware: Cybercriminals also use these malicious redirects to send you to websites where you can download software you may not want on your computer. These products often come bundled with malware which can leave your computer vulnerable to an attack in the future. While a good anti-virus software will not prevent these malicious redirects from happening, it may help protect you from unwanted and harmful software that you download from these websites.
I got a redirect to a random website or have unwanted pop-up on my computer. What do I do now?
1) Do NOT call the phone number listed on the pop-up. Your computer is NOT infected. Follow the steps below to get rid of it.
2) The first step after being redirected to a page you know you did not wish to visit is to attempt to close the page by selecting the “x” at the top of the page’s tab or by closing your web browser by clicking the “X” in the upper right-hand corner on a PC or the upper left-hand corner on a Mac.
3) If you are able to close the tab or the web browser window, you can re-open the web browser and resume your online activity. Make sure that you do not restore your previous session when prompted.
4) If your computer screen seems locked or frozen and you are unable to close your web browser, push and hold the power button on your computer for a minimum of 10 seconds until the device completely powers off.
5) Restart your computer.
6) Open your web browser and be sure to not restore your previous session when prompted.
What can I do to avoid these pages in the future?
- Make sure that your browser has the latest updates installed. Similar to the updates to you computer, phone, or tablet, these updates include the latest security updates to help keep you protected.
- These redirects tend to be more common on lesser known websites. If you know the website you wish to go to, type the URL directly in to the address bar instead of Googling it. The google search results can be filled with similar looking web pages that are not legitimate.
- Keep your anti-virus software up to date. While this won’t prevent you from being redirected to a dodgy website or prevent popups from infected sites, it will help protect you should you accidentally install malware or viruses from them.
Things to remember:
Your computer is NOT infected and the phone number listed in the pop-up is a scam. Do not call the number or give them any personal information. Follow the steps above to remove the threat.
Similarly, Microsoft and Apple will never make an unsolicited phone call to you about your computer. These phone calls are scams. Do not give the caller any personal information and hang up the phone.