What is Cactus Search?
Cactus Search is rogue software classified as a browser hijacker. It operates by promoting the cactus-search.com fake search engine through modification of browser settings.
Furthermore, Cactus Search has data tracking capabilities, which are employed to monitor users' browsing habits. Since browser hijackers are typically downloaded/installed unintentionally, they are also categorized as Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs).
Browser hijackers assign fake searcher addresses as the homepage, default search engine, and new tab/window URLs. Cactus Search also makes these modifications when promoting cactus-search.com. Therefore, with this browser hijacker installed, each search query typed into the URL bar and new tab/window opened redirects to the cactus-search.com web searcher.
Bogus search engines seldom provide actual search results, and so they tend to redirect or cause redirection chains leading to Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other genuine sites. This applies to cactus-search.com, which redirects to the Google (google.com) search engine.
Furthermore, browser hijackers can reset any changes users try to make to their browsers. Alternatively, this software restricts or denies access to the browser settings outright. Therefore, recovering an affected browser is impossible without removing the browser hijacker.
Cactus Search can track data. Information of interest includes (but is not limited to): URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries typed, IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, geolocations, and personally identifiable details. The collected data is then monetized by sharing with and/or selling to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals).
In summary, the presence of data-tracking software on devices can lead to serious privacy issues, financial loss, and even identity theft. To ensure device integrity and user privacy, all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins must be eliminated without delay.
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Browser Extension(s)||Cactus Search|
|Serving IP Address (cactus-search.com)||22.214.171.124|
|Affected Browser Settings||Homepage, new tab URL, default search engine|
|Symptoms||Manipulated Internet browser settings (homepage, default Internet search engine, new tab settings). Users are forced to visit the hijacker's website and search the Internet using their search engines.|
|Distribution methods||Deceptive pop-up ads, free software installers (bundling), fake Flash Player installers.|
|Damage||Internet browser tracking (potential privacy issues), display of unwanted ads, redirects to dubious websites.|
|Malware Removal (Windows)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
SearchMusicStream, Quick App, and NewTaber are some examples of other browser hijackers. They may seem legitimate and offer a broad range of "useful" functions, however, despite how good the advertised features may sound, they are rarely operational. In fact, this applies to most PUAs.
The only aim of these apps is to generate profit at users' expense. PUAs can modify browsers, force-open untrusted and malicious web pages, run intrusive advertisement campaigns (adware), and gather private information.
How did Cactus Search install on my computer?
People often download and install unwanted apps inadvertently via deceptive advertisements - they click ads that cause unwanted downloads/installations by executing certain scripts.
Unwanted downloads and installations also occur during download/installation of other programs. I.e., when PUAs are included into the set-ups as 'extra offers'. This PUA distribution method of PUAs is called "bundling".
Typically, offers to download and install these additional apps can be declined via "Custom", "Advanced" or other settings, or by unticking certain checkboxes within the set-ups. When users download and install programs without making these checks and changes, they often allow PUAs to infiltrate.
How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications
You are advised to research all software before download/installation or purchase. All downloads must be done from official and verified sources, since dubious channels such as unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders commonly offer deceptive or bundled content.
When downloading/installing, read the terms, explore all possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out of supplementary apps, tools, features, etc. Intrusive ads may seem normal and harmless, however, they can redirect to various dubious web pages (e.g. gambling, pornography, adult-dating, and many others).
If you encounter ads or redirects of this kind, inspect the system and remove any suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately.
If your computer is already infected with Cactus Search, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Cactus Search browser hijacker asking for various permissions:
Website promoting Cactus Search browser hijacker:
Appearance of cactus-search.com redirecting to the Google search engine (GIF):
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
- What is Cactus Search?
- STEP 1. Uninstall Cactus Search application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove Cactus Search browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove cactus-search.com homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove cactus-search.com redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
- STEP 6. Remove cactus-search.com redirect from Internet Explorer.
Cactus Search browser hijacker removal:
Windows 11 users:
Right-click on the Start icon, select Apps and Features. In the opened window search for the application you want to uninstall, after locating it, click on the three vertical dots and select Uninstall.
Windows 10 users:
Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen, in the Quick Access Menu select Control Panel. In the opened window choose Programs and Features.
Windows 7 users:
Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.
macOS (OSX) users:
Click Finder, in the opened screen select Applications. Drag the app from the Applications folder to the Trash (located in your Dock), then right click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash.
In the uninstall programs window: look for any recently installed suspicious applications (for example, "Cactus Search"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications that cause browser redirects to the cactus-search.com website, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
Cactus Search browser hijacker removal from Internet browsers:
Video showing how to remove browser redirects:
Remove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:
Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate "Cactus Search" and other recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, and remove them.
Change your homepage:
Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section, disable "Cactus Search", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.cactus-search.com) below the “Open a specific or set of pages” option. If present, click the three vertical dots icon and select “Remove”.
Change your default search engine:
To change your default search engine in Google Chrome: Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings", in the "Search engine" section, click "Manage search engines...", in the opened list look for "cactus-search.com", when located click the three vertical dots near this URL and select "Remove from list".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cactus-search.com redirect, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click the Advanced… link.
After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
Remove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:
Click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click on "Extensions" and remove "Cactus Search", as well as all other recently installed browser plug-ins.
Change your homepage:
To reset your homepage, click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), then select "Options", in the opened window disable "Cactus Search", remove hxxp://cactus-search.com and enter your preferred domain, which will open each time you start Mozilla Firefox.
Change your default search engine:
In the URL address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
Click "I'll be careful, I promise!".
In the search filter at the top, type: "extensionControlled"
Set both results to "false" by either double-clicking each entry or clicking the button.
Computer users who have problems with cactus-search.com redirect removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.
Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, in the opened menu, click Help.
Select Troubleshooting Information.
In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.
Remove malicious extensions from Safari:
Make sure your Safari browser is active and click Safari menu, then select Preferences...
In the preferences window select the Extensions tab. Look for any recently installed suspicious extensions and uninstall them.
In the preferences window select General tab and make sure that your homepage is set to a preferred URL, if its altered by a browser hijacker - change it.
In the preferences window select Search tab and make sure that your preferred Internet search engine is selected.
Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...
In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.
Remove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:
Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Extensions". Locate any recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, and remove them.
Change your homepage and new tab settings:
Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section look for the name of the browser hijacker and click "Disable".
Change your default Internet search engine:
To change your default search engine in Microsoft Edge: Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Privacy and services", scroll to bottom of the page and select "Address bar". In the "Search engines used in address bar" section look for the name of the unwanted Internet search engine, when located click the "Disable" button near it. Alternatively you can click on "Manage search engines", in the opened menu look for unwanted Internet search engine. Click on the puzzle icon near it and select "Disable".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cactus-search.com redirect, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.
In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.
Select Restore settings to their default values. In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Microsoft Edge settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
- If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.
Remove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". Look for any recently installed suspicious extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".
Change your homepage:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Internet Options", in the opened window remove hxxp://cactus-search.com and enter your preferred domain, which will open each time you launch Internet Explorer. You can also enter about: blank to open a blank page when you start Internet Explorer.
Change your default search engine:
Click the "gear" icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". In the opened window, select "Search Providers", set "Google", "Bing", or any other preferred search engine as your default and then remove "Cactus Search".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the cactus-search.com redirect, reset your Internet Explorer settings to default.
Windows XP users: Click Start, click Run, in the opened window type inetcpl.cpl In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click the Windows logo, in the start search box type inetcpl.cpl and click enter. In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.
Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.
In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.
Click the Reset button.
Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
A browser hijacker is a type of adware infection that modifies Internet browser settings by assigning the homepage and default Internet search engine settings to some other (unwanted) website URL. Commonly, this type of adware infiltrates operating systems through free software downloads. If your download is managed by a download client, ensure that you decline offers to install advertised toolbars or applications that seek to change your homepage and default Internet search engine settings.
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