How to remove the SportSearchMaster browser hijacker
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is SportSearchMaster?
SportSearchMaster is a browser hijacker promoting the sportsearchmaster.com bogus search engine. This piece of dubious software promotes its web searcher by causing redirects to it, facilitated via modifications to browser settings.
Additionally, browser hijackers typically monitor users' browsing habits and collect vulnerable information. Since most users download/install browser hijackers unintentionally, they are also classified as Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs).
Browser hijackers primarily target popular browsers with large user bases. This software assigns fake search engine addresses as the homepage, new tab/window, and default search engine URLs.
SportSearchMaster also makes these alterations to browser settings - to promote sportsearchmaster.com. To elaborate on how this affects browsing, with SportSearchMaster installed, new browser tabs/windows opened and search queries typed into the URL redirect to sportsearchmaster.com.
Rogue search engines seldom generate unique results, and so they redirect (or cause redirection chains leading) to Yahoo, Bing, Google, and other genuine sites. This is true of sportsearchmaster.com, yet where it redirects is determined by users' geolocations.
At the time of research, it redirected to Yahoo (search.yahoo.com) or searchlee.com. The latter is a fake search engine, which is able to provide search results, though they are inaccurate and might promote untrusted and malicious websites/content.
Furthermore, browser hijackers can restrict/deny access to the browser settings and undo any permitted changes made. Therefore, recovering a hijacked browser is impossible without removing the software affecting it.
Most browser hijackers have data tracking capabilities, and it is likely that this is the case with SportSearchMaster as well. 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 shared with and/or sold to third-parties, likewise intent on misusing it for profit.
In summary, the presence of data-tracking software on browsers/systems can lead to serious privacy issues, financial loss, and identity theft. To ensure device integrity and user privacy, all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins must be removed without delay.
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Serving IP Address (sportsearchmaster.com)||126.96.36.199|
|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.
VideoSearchz, Cactus Search, and SearchMusicStream are some examples of other browser hijackers. They may seem legitimate and harmless, and users are enticed into download/installation with various functions, however, despite how useful the advertised features may sound, they are usually nonoperational.
In fact, this applies to most PUAs - the sole purpose of these unwanted apps is to generate profit for the developers. PUAs are designed to hijack browsers, force-open unreliable and dangerous websites, deliver intrusive advertisement campaigns (adware), and collect private data.
How did SportSearchMaster install on my computer?
PUAs are often downloaded/installed together with other products. This deceptive marketing technique of pre-packing regular software with unwanted or malicious additions is called "bundling".
By rushing through download/installation of software (e.g. ignoring terms, skipping steps and sections, using "Quick/Express" settings, etc.) many users risk unintentionally allowing bundled content into their devices. Intrusive advertisements proliferate PUAs as well. When clicked, the ads can execute scripts to download/install these applications without users' permission.
Some PUAs have "official" download web pages from which they can be downloaded.
How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications
You are advised to research all software before download/installation. Use only official and verified download channels. Unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule), and other third party downloaders commonly offer harmful and bundled content, and are therefore untrusted and should be avoided.
When downloading/installing, read the terms, study all possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out of additional apps, tools, features, and so on.
Intrusive advertisements typically seem legitimate, however, they can redirect to dubious and malicious sites (e.g. gambling, pornography, adult-dating, and many others). If you encounter ads or redirects of this kind, inspect the system and remove all dubious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately.
Installed programs must be activated and updated with tools or implemented functions that are provided by the official developers. No other third party, unofficial tools should be used.
Note that it is illegal to activate licensed software with ‘cracking’ tools. Files and programs should be downloaded from official websites and via direct download links. Avoid third party installers and the tools/sources mentioned above.
Do not open website links or files in irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses. These bogus emails are often disguised as official and important. Regularly, scan your computer with reputable, up-to-date antivirus or anti-spyware software.
If your computer is already infected with SportSearchMaster, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Appearance of sportsearchmaster.com redirecting to the Yahoo search engine (GIF):
Appearance of sportsearchmaster.com redirecting to the searchlee.com fake search engine (GIF):
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer 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 SportSearchMaster?
- STEP 1. Uninstall SportSearchMaster application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove SportSearchMaster browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove sportsearchmaster.com homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove sportsearchmaster.com redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
- STEP 6. Remove sportsearchmaster.com redirect from Internet Explorer.
SportSearchMaster 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, "SportSearchMaster"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications that cause browser redirects to the sportsearchmaster.com website, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
SportSearchMaster 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 "SportSearchMaster" 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 "SportSearchMaster", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.sportsearchmaster.com) below the “Open a specific or set of pages” option. If present, click on 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 "sportsearchmaster.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 sportsearchmaster.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 "SportSearchMaster", 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 "SportSearchMaster", remove hxxp://sportsearchmaster.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 sportsearchmaster.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 sportsearchmaster.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://sportsearchmaster.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 "SportSearchMaster".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the sportsearchmaster.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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