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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 12:41 GMT
Web hijacker snares victims
Escape key, BBC
The Xupiter toolbar can be hard to escape
Thousands of people have been caught out by a sneaky Internet Explorer toolbar that hijacks their web browser.

The Xupiter toolbar changes a browser's home page, redirects searches to pre-selected sites, and automatically opens a back door into a computer to let in ads and games.

The toolbar takes advantage of low security settings to automatically install itself and many people do not know they have downloaded it until it is too late.

The program can be difficult to remove because it does such a good job of concealing itself.

Seek and destroy

Browsing the web is not without its dangers, especially because many unscrupulous marketing firms are happily exploiting the flexibility of Internet Explorer to foist their wares on unsuspecting net users.

Web users have found to their cost that if the browser security settings are low they become victims of "drive-by downloads" in which programs they never asked for automatically install themselves.

Privacy sites such as Doxdesk and Spyware Info provide helper programs that scan for the presence of these pernicious programs and give advice on how to remove them.

Software such as Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and Destroy will find and remove well known spyware programs.

The Xupiter toolbar has raised the hackles of many web users and privacy advocates for its hijacking of web browsers and because it makes itself hard to remove.

Tricky to remove

Once installed Xupiter changes a browser's homepage, forwards searches to its own site, downloads other games, bombards people with pop-up ads and blocks attempts by users to re-assert control.

The program also aggressively checks to see that all its parts are intact, downloads missing parts and nags users to re-install the toolbar.

Removing Xupiter can be tricky. Many people have resorted to editing the registry of their computer which acts as a master list of the programs and settings on a Windows computer.

There are conflicting reports about the Xupiter uninstall program provided by its makers. Some have reported success using it, others said it did not work.

Many people were caught out by Xupiter when browsing webpages and others have said it was bundled in with the Grokster file-sharing program.

See also:

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