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Issue #369: Aug 17-23, 2014

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Q: Despite using antivirus and other software scans, I continue to get a popup: “Browser Settings Your browser setting are not set to Search Results. Would you like to set your home page and search settings to MySearchResults? Click OK to continue,” It offers the options of OK, Disagree and X (close). I almost always close this nuisance, but once clicked “Disagree” which didn’t stop a recurrence. I suspect that “OK” might trigger a virus. My son in Colorado has the same popup, but likewise never opts for “OK.” Is this dangerous or just an annoyance? And, what will eradicate it?

– Douglass B.
Niceville, Florida

A:  You and your son have made the right decision in choosing to disallow MySearchResults to modify your system.  I say that because despite your antivirus software and other scans, what you have here is malware.  Is it dangerous?  Probably not.  This particular annoyance has a reputation for hijacking browsers, meaning it redirects your searches to their site, and alters your home page to their site.  Who knows what other little jewels are hidden inside though?

Before I talk about how to “eradicate” it, I want to discuss how you got it in the first place, so maybe you or my other readers won’t find yourselves in this predicament again. The major problem here is that people look at their antimalware scanner as if were a suit of armor, and the only weapons the enemy has are rocks and arrows.  They feel so safe inside their armor that they fail to use due caution in their other activities; the assumption being that the armor will protect them.  The problem is that the enemy (the malware authors) are far beyond using mere arrows.  The rank amateurs, and the ones new to being virus-writing scum (sorry, but I reserve zero compassion and respect for people who choose to use their God-given skills in this manner) may still use old technology.  But the expert-scum are well beyond arrows.  They are beyond bullets and missiles.  The best ones have the equivalent of self-guided nuclear smart bombs that can do the computerized equivalent of incinerating you, armor and all.  Those are somewhat rare, and aren’t often launched against typical Internet users like you and me.  When something like this does come along, it tends to make headlines in the national news, and is closely tracked by the large anti-malware businesses.

MySearchResults is definitely not such malware. It is a browser hijacker that falls in the category of annoyance.  It does use one very clever trick for getting past your malware scanner to get installed on your computer though.  Are you ready for this?  IT ASKS FOR YOUR PERMISSION.  Don’t believe me?  Re-read your question above.  What’s going on is that this malware is asking for your permission to install itself.  By interacting with you, and having you click something to launch the installer, it effectively does an end-run around your malware scanner.  Your scanner is looking for suspicious activity, or specific virus signatures in files.  Unfortunately, the act of installing software is inherently suspicious, and there’s no way to tell if it’s legitimate.  So it might pop-up a warning dialog that some piece of software wants to make a change to your system, and is that okay with you.  Chances are you’ll blindly click “yes” because you asked it to install in the first place.  Avoiding this situation requires at least a little situational awareness, and some common sense when using your computer.  For example, is it reasonable for a system that is perfectly capable of performing searches to suddenly announce that “Your browser settings are not set to search results” and then ask you to install something that you’ve never needed before?  The answer is “NO” and when that happens it should be an immediate red flag.  Take heed, because MySearchResults is not the only such software that does this, and new ones are coming out all the time.

As far as getting rid of it, I can refer you to several online sites that give instructions for how to remove it, but all of them that I’ve reviewed seem to assume it’s already been fully installed, but based on your e-mail, I’m not sure that’s the case. Try going in to the Control Panel, under “Programs and Features” and see whether it is listed there.  It so, uninstall it.  Also check your browser’s add-ons, which for IE is Tools->Manage add-ons.  If it’s there, disable it.  Once you’ve done those, if the problem persists, here’s some light reading for you: tinyurl.com/lbxmuj3. Alternately, try Googling “MySearchResults malware” for even more information.

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