How to Fix a Browser Hijack on Microsoft Edge

Introduction

Browser hijacking or 'pop-up phishing' involves fraudulent messages that unexpectedly pop up for users when they are surfing the web. In many cases, cyber criminals infect otherwise legitimate websites with malicious code that causes these messages to appear when people visit them.
The content of these messages themselves is what makes them so effective. Often, they present the unsuspecting website visitor with some kind of fraudulent warning from a well-known reputable company, typically about the security of their computer. Then they either prompt the visitor to download some tool to fix the problem, such as an antivirus application which turns out to be malware itself, or to call a fraudulent phone number for "support." The abnormal behavior of the message itself and the inability to close or navigate away from them, makes the fraudulent messages appear to be somewhat credible.
This guide will demonstrate how to rid yourself of the worrisome pop-up message, and then perform some simple operations to get Microsoft Edge back to normal.
A hijacked edge browser

What About Pop-Ups?

This guide focuses on hijacked browsers. Pop-ups are another beast entirely and covered in another guide.

Preventing Pop-Ups on Edge

1 Terminate Browser

The following steps can be used to terminate any browser, but the examples below will demonstrate using Internet Explorer.
  1. Open the Windows Task Manager.
    Using the Taskbar
    • Using your right mouse button, right-click on your Taskbar. Then select Task Manager from the menu.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Taskbar right-click menu with Task Manager highlighted.
    Using a Keyboard Shortcut
    • On your keyboard use Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
      Keyboard with Ctrl Shift and Esc highlighted
    Using the Lock Screen
    • You can do Ctrl+Alt+Del on your keyboard, then click on Task Manager.
      PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
      GINA Screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  2. Select your browser, then select End Task.
    Basic View
    Task Manager basic view with browser and End Task highlighted.
    Advanced View
    Task Manager advanced view with browser and End Task highlighted.

Open Edge InPrivate Window

Microsoft Edge browser has a special mode called "InPrivate Browsing". We will use it to clear any remaining errant settings in normal mode, simply by opening in that special mode, then closing right away.

  1. Using your right mouse button, right-click on Edge, and select New InPrivate Window.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    Windows Taskbar with Edge right click menu and InPrivate Window highlighted.
  2. If you don't see Edge on your Taskbar, open the Start menu and select Edge from there.
    Edge in the start menu
    The browser will look a little different than usual. That is normal.
  3. Close the browser by selecting the X in the upper-right corner.
    Close

2 Clear Cache and History

  1. Open Microsoft Edge, select the menu in the top right, and select Settings.
    Microsoft Edge.
    Edge browser with menu open and settings highlighted.
  2. Select Privacy & security on the left, then select Choose what to clear on the right.
    Edge Settings with Privacy and security and Choose what to clear highlighted.
  3. Select the item categories you wish to clear, then select Clear.
    Clear browsing data with options and Clear highlightd.

    Setting Checkbox
    Browsing History Checked
    While you browse Your browser will keep track of every page you visit, to try to make it easier to return. This can become corrupt due to modern active web pages.
    Cookies and saved website data Checked
    This clears your cache, making your browser get a new copy of the webpage, images, etc. It's important to clear this to get a fresh copy the next time you visit, as the copy your browser has may simply be corrupt.
    You will have to log back into any pages you use, such as mail or social media.
    Cached data and files Checked
    This clears your cache, making your browser get a new copy of the webpage, images, etc. It's important to clear this to get a fresh copy the next time you visit, as the copy your browser has may simply be corrupt.
    Tabs I've set aside or recently closed Checked
    This clears tabs that you have set aside, as well as tabs that you've recently closed.
    Download History Personal Choice
    These are a list of files you've downloaded recently. It is entirely safe to delete, or keep this list, as it won't affect pages. Checking this option does not delete the files you've downloaded, just the list the browser keeps.
    Autofill data Unchecked
    Information from entering forms online, such as your name, address, or other filled in information. This does not affect how a page loads, and can slow you down on your most commonly used pages.
    Passwords Unchecked
    Your browser will save your passwords while you browse, making it easier to log into your most common websites later. This does not affect how a page loads, and can slow you down on your most commonly used pages.
    Media Licenses Unchecked
    Clears any saved media licenses. These are typically used for streaming sites that you may have purchased content from.
    Website Permissions Unchecked
    Clears any permission granted to web sites. These permissions include permissions to access your audio devices such as your mic, and location services.

? Test your browser - have things returned to normal?

  1. Yes, my browser is working like it should
  2. No, my browser is still weird

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Browser hijacking or 'pop-up phishing' involves fraudulent messages that unexpectedly pop up for users when they are surfing the web. In many cases, cyber criminals infect otherwise legitimate websites with malicious code that causes these messages to appear when people visit them.
The content of these messages themselves is what makes them so effective. Often, they present the unsuspecting website visitor with some kind of fraudulent warning from a well-known reputable company, typically about the security of their computer. Then they either prompt the visitor to download some tool to fix the problem, such as an antivirus application which turns out to be malware itself, or to call a fraudulent phone number for "support." The abnormal behavior of the message itself and the inability to close or navigate away from them, makes the fraudulent messages appear to be somewhat credible.
This guide will demonstrate how to rid yourself of the worrisome pop-up message, and then perform some simple operations to get Microsoft Edge back to normal.
A hijacked edge browser

What About Pop-Ups?

This guide focuses on hijacked browsers. Pop-ups are another beast entirely and covered in another guide.

Preventing Pop-Ups on Edge
The following steps can be used to terminate any browser, but the examples below will demonstrate using Internet Explorer.
  1. Open the Windows Task Manager.
    Using the Taskbar
    • Using your right mouse button, right-click on your Taskbar. Then select Task Manager from the menu.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Taskbar right-click menu with Task Manager highlighted.
    Using a Keyboard Shortcut
    • On your keyboard use Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
      Keyboard with Ctrl Shift and Esc highlighted
    Using the Lock Screen
    • You can do Ctrl+Alt+Del on your keyboard, then click on Task Manager.
      PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
      GINA Screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  2. Select your browser, then select End Task.
    Basic View
    Task Manager basic view with browser and End Task highlighted.
    Advanced View
    Task Manager advanced view with browser and End Task highlighted.

Open Edge InPrivate Window

Microsoft Edge browser has a special mode called "InPrivate Browsing". We will use it to clear any remaining errant settings in normal mode, simply by opening in that special mode, then closing right away.

  1. Using your right mouse button, right-click on Edge, and select New InPrivate Window.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    Windows Taskbar with Edge right click menu and InPrivate Window highlighted.
  2. If you don't see Edge on your Taskbar, open the Start menu and select Edge from there.
    Edge in the start menu
    The browser will look a little different than usual. That is normal.
  3. Close the browser by selecting the X in the upper-right corner.
    Close
  1. Open Microsoft Edge, select the menu in the top right, and select Settings.
    Microsoft Edge.
    Edge browser with menu open and settings highlighted.
  2. Select Privacy & security on the left, then select Choose what to clear on the right.
    Edge Settings with Privacy and security and Choose what to clear highlighted.
  3. Select the item categories you wish to clear, then select Clear.
    Clear browsing data with options and Clear highlightd.

    Setting Checkbox
    Browsing History Checked
    While you browse Your browser will keep track of every page you visit, to try to make it easier to return. This can become corrupt due to modern active web pages.
    Cookies and saved website data Checked
    This clears your cache, making your browser get a new copy of the webpage, images, etc. It's important to clear this to get a fresh copy the next time you visit, as the copy your browser has may simply be corrupt.
    You will have to log back into any pages you use, such as mail or social media.
    Cached data and files Checked
    This clears your cache, making your browser get a new copy of the webpage, images, etc. It's important to clear this to get a fresh copy the next time you visit, as the copy your browser has may simply be corrupt.
    Tabs I've set aside or recently closed Checked
    This clears tabs that you have set aside, as well as tabs that you've recently closed.
    Download History Personal Choice
    These are a list of files you've downloaded recently. It is entirely safe to delete, or keep this list, as it won't affect pages. Checking this option does not delete the files you've downloaded, just the list the browser keeps.
    Autofill data Unchecked
    Information from entering forms online, such as your name, address, or other filled in information. This does not affect how a page loads, and can slow you down on your most commonly used pages.
    Passwords Unchecked
    Your browser will save your passwords while you browse, making it easier to log into your most common websites later. This does not affect how a page loads, and can slow you down on your most commonly used pages.
    Media Licenses Unchecked
    Clears any saved media licenses. These are typically used for streaming sites that you may have purchased content from.
    Website Permissions Unchecked
    Clears any permission granted to web sites. These permissions include permissions to access your audio devices such as your mic, and location services.

Some browser extensions / addons can cause your browser to behave abnormally. Removing any unwanted, unnecessary, or unused browser extensions/addons can get your web browser running properly again.

Edge icon
  1. Click on the three dots in the upper right hand corner.
    Microsoft Edge with 3 dots highlighted. Screenshot
  2. Click on Extensions.
    Edge menu with extensions highlighted. Screenshot
  3. The following steps can be repeated to remove multiple browser extensions:
    1. Mouse over the extension you want to remove and click on the Gear icon in the upper right hand corner. You want to remove any extension that mentions advertising, or ones that you just do not know how they got there.
      extension list with gear icon highlighted. Screenshot
    2. You will see the information for the extension show up. At the bottom, click on Uninstall.
      Extension information with uninstall highlighted. Screenshot
    3. There will be a confirmation window, click OK to finish uninstalling.
      Confirmation window with OK highlighted. Screenshot
    4. Sometimes you might get a tab open up in your browser asking why you are leaving, you can safely close the tab, by clicking on the X for the tab. 
      Browser tabs with X highlighted. Screenshot
  4. Extensions are now gone, you may have to restart your browser for it to take effect. If you removed a malicious extension, it might have changed your homepage.
  1. Open Edge.
    Microsoft Edge.
  2. Click the three dot menu.
  3. Select Settings.
    Windows 10 Edge settings
  4. Under Open Microsoft Edge with, verify your homepage.
    Edge homepage settings
  5. Scroll down and click View Advanced Settings.
    Edge advanced settings
  6. At the top, if there is a specific page selected, verify that it isn't malicious.
    Edge advanced settings showing the start page
  7. Close Edge and reopen it to verify your homepage is correct.
  1. Open your browser and take note if it shows your normal home page or search page.
    Microsoft Edge.
  2. Test your ability to search the web like you normally would.

Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs)

PUPs, or "Potentially unwanted programs," often arrive bundled with your computer, or tag along with another software program you meant to install, but were part of a EULA or "Recommended Offer" you probably clicked right through. These are programs that don't really do anything good for you. Some of these programs can add unwanted browser toolbars that clutter your browser, track your web browsing, show additional advertisements, or change your search page and other related settings.
Example of a PUP installing a search bar

You may need to remove an app or program because you need the space, simply don't need it anymore, or it is malicious. The following steps show you how to easily remove an app. The first method is exclusive to Windows 10, the second method will work with all Windows versions.

Windows 10 - Using Windows Settings
  1. Click Start (1), then click Settings (2).
    Windows start menu with the start button and settings highlighted.
  2. Next, Select Apps.
    Windows Settings with Apps highlighted.
  3. Scroll down and locate the app you wish to remove, and click on Uninstall.
    Apps screen with the uninstall option for an app highlighted.
  4. Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
  5. Some applications may require that you reboot.
All Windows Versions - Using Control Panel
  1. On your keyboard push and release the Windows Key and R at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Windows key and R highlighted.
  2. You will see a Run window open up. Type in appwiz.cpl then click on OK.
    Run windows with appwiz.cpl typed and OK highlighted. Screenshot
  3. Locate a program you wish to remove within the list, click once on it to highlight it, then click on Uninstall.
    Uninstall window with program and uninstall highlighted. Screenshot
  4. Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
  5. Some applications may require that your computer be restarted to complete the uninstallation.
Before you restart or shut down your PC, make sure to save all necessary work to prevent data loss.
  1. Select the Start menu, then select Power.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Power Button
  2. Select Restart.
    Windows 10 Power menu with Restart highlighted.
  1. Open your browser and take note if it shows your normal home page or search page.
    Microsoft Edge.
  2. Test your ability to search the web like you normally would.
Unfortunately, your browser issue cannot be resolved via basic troubleshooting steps. Your machine will require hands-on service to determine the root cause of your issues.
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