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How to remove the Focus Line browser hijacker?

Also Known As: Focus Line redirect
Damage level: Medium

What is the Focus Line browser hijacker?

Focus Line is a piece of dubious software categorized as a browser hijacker. Following successful infiltration, it promotes the fxsmash.xyz fake search engine. Typically, browser hijackers promote (i.e., cause redirects to) their web searchers by making changes to browser settings.

However, Focus Line does not always modify browsers. This browser hijacker also has data tracking abilities, which are used to collect browsing-related information.

Due to the questionable techniques employed to distribute browser hijackers, they are classified as PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications).

fxsmash.xyz browser hijacker asking for data-related permissions

Browser hijackers mainly target popular browsers with large user bases. They operate by assigning fake web searcher addresses as browsers' default search engine, homepage, and new tab/window URLs.

To elaborate on how this affects browsing, with a browser hijacker installed: new browser tabs/windows opened and search queries typed into the URL bar - redirect to the address of the promoted search engine.

Focus Line does not necessarily make these alterations when promoting fxsmash.xyz. Illegitimate search engines rarely can generate search results, so they redirect to (or cause redirection chains ending with) Yahoo, Google, Bing, and other genuine ones.

This is true of fxsmash.xyz as well, yet where it redirects to - depends on users' geolocations. It has been observed redirecting to Yahoo (search.yahoo.com) and to the websearches.club fake web searcher.

While the latter is illegitimate, it can provide search results. However, the results are inaccurate and may endorse untrustworthy and malicious websites/content.

Furthermore, this software can restrict or deny access to the browser settings. Alternatively, browser hijackers can undo any changes users try to make to their browsers.

Therefore, recovering a hijacked browser is impossible without eliminating the software affecting it. What is more, Focus Line can track data. Targeted information includes: URLs visited, webpages viewed, search queries typed, IP addresses/ geolocations, personally identifiable details, and so on.

The collected data is then shared with and/or sold to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals). In summary, the presence of data-tracking software on devices - can lead to severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.

To protect device integrity and user safety, all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins must be removed immediately upon detection.

Threat Summary:
Name Focus Line
Threat Type Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab
Browser Extension(s) Focus Line
Promoted URL fxsmash.xyz
Detection Names (fxsmash.xyz) Fortinet (Malware), alphaMountain.ai (Suspicious), Forcepoint ThreatSeeker (Suspicious), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Serving IP Address (fxsmash.xyz) 172.67.181.12
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.
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Newz FinderDigitalPDFConverterSearch, and Simple Word Count are a couple examples of browser hijackers. They appear ordinary and harmless.

Users are enticed into download/installation with a wide variety of "handy" functionalities. However, the advertised functions are seldom operational. In fact, this applies to nearly all PUAs. The only goal of unwanted apps is to generate profit for the developers.

Therefore, instead of delivering on any promises, PUAs can hijack browsers, cause redirects, run intrusive advertisement campaigns (adware), and gather sensitive and private information.

How did Focus Line install on my computer?

Select PUAs (e.g., Focus Line) have "official" promotional/download sites. These applications can also be downloaded/installed together with other programs.

This false marketing tactic of packing regular software with unwanted or malicious additions - is termed "bundling". Rushed download/installation processes (e.g., ignored terms, skipped steps and sections, etc.) - increase the risk of inadvertently allowing bundled content into the system.

Intrusive advertisements are used to proliferate PUAs as well. Once clicked on, the ads can execute scripts to make downloads/installations without user permission.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

It is advised to research software products before download/installation and/or purchase. Furthermore, all downloads must be performed from official and verified sources.

Untrustworthy download channels, e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders - commonly offer harmful and bundled content.

When downloading/installing, it is recommended to read terms, explore possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings, and opt-out from additional apps, tools, functions, etc. Intrusive adverts appear legitimate and innocuous; however, they redirect to highly questionable sites (e.g., gambling, pornography, adult-dating, etc.).

In case of encounters with such ads and/or redirects, the system must be inspected and all dubious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins detected - removed from it without delay. If your computer is already infected with Focus Line, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.

Website promoting Focus Line browser hijacker:

Website used to promote Focus Line browser hijacker

Appearance of fxsmash.xyz redirecting to the Yahoo search engine (GIF):

Focus Line browser hijacker redirecting to Yahoo (GIF)

Appearance of fxsmash.xyz redirecting to the websearches.club fake search engine (GIF):

Focus Line browser hijacker redirecting to websearches.club (GIF)

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Quick menu:

Focus Line browser hijacker removal:

Windows 11 users:

Accessing Apps and Features in Windows 11

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:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 8

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:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 7

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:

Uninstall app in OSX (Mac)

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.

fxsmash.xyz browser hijacker uninstall via Control Panel

In the uninstall programs window: look for any recently installed suspicious applications (for example, "Focus Line"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".

After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications (which cause browser redirects to the fxsmash.xyz website), scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.

Focus Line browser hijacker removal from Internet browsers:

Video showing how to remove browser redirects:

Google Chrome logoRemove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:

Removing fxsmash.xyz related Google Chrome extensions

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate "Focus Line" and other recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, and remove them.

Change your homepage:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Google Chrome homepage

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section, disable "Focus Line", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.fxsmash.xyz) 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:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Google Chrome default search engine

To change your default search engine in Google Chrome: Click the Chrome menu icon Google 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 "fxsmash.xyz", when located click the three vertical dots near this URL and select "Remove from list".

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the focus line redirect, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon Google 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.

Google Chrome settings reset step 1

After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 2

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 3

Mozilla Firefox logoRemove malicious plugins from Mozilla Firefox:

Removing fxsmash.xyz related Mozilla Firefox extensions

Click the Firefox menu firefox menu icon (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click on "Extensions" and remove "Focus Line", as well as all other recently installed browser plug-ins.

Change your homepage:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Mozilla Firefox homepage

To reset your homepage, click the Firefox menu firefox menu icon (at the top right corner of the main window), then select "Options", in the opened window disable "Focus Line", remove hxxp://fxsmash.xyz and enter your preferred domain, which will open each time you start Mozilla Firefox.

Change your default search engine:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Mozilla Firefox 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 Mozilla Firefox switch about:config entry button button.

Optional method:

Computer users who have problems with focus line redirect removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.

Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, firefox menu icon in the opened menu, click Help.

Accessing settings (Reset Firefox to default settings step 1)

Select Troubleshooting Information.

Accessing Troubleshooting Information (Reset Firefox to default settings step 2)

In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.

Clicking on Refresh Firefox button (Reset Firefox to default settings step 3)

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.

Confirm your want to reset Firefox settings to default (Reset Firefox to default settings step 4)

safari browser logoRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

Removing browser hijackers from safari step 1 - accessing preferences

Make sure your Safari browser is active and click Safari menu, then select Preferences...

removing browser hijacker from safari step 2 - removing extensions

In the preferences window select the Extensions tab. Look for any recently installed suspicious extensions and uninstall them.

Removing browser hijackers from safari step 3 - changing homepage

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.

removing browser hijackers from safari step 4 - changing the default Internet search engine

In the preferences window select Search tab and make sure that your preferred Internet search engine is selected.

Optional method:

Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...

resetting safari step 1

In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.

resetting safari step 2

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) logoRemove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:

Removing browser hijackers from Microsoft Edge step 1

Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) 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:

Removing browser hijackers from Microsoft Edge step 2

Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) 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:

Removing browser hijackers from Microsoft Edge step 3

To change your default search engine in Microsoft Edge: Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) 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 Microsoft Edge (Chromium) puzzle icon near it and select "Disable".

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the focus line redirect, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 1

In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 2

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.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 3

  • If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.

Internet Explorer logoRemove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:

Removing fxsmash.xyz related Internet Explorer extensions

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options 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:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Internet Explorer homepage

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Internet Options", in the opened window remove hxxp://fxsmash.xyz 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:

Removing fxsmash.xyz from Internet Explorer default search engine

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options 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 "Focus Line".

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the focus line 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.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows XP

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.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 7

Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.

Reseting Internet Explorer settings to default in Windows 8 - accessing

In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - Internet options advanced tab

Click the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - click the Reset button in the Internet options advanced tab

Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - confirm settings reset to default by clicking the reset button

Summary:

declining installation of browser hijackers while downloading free software sampleA 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.

Removal assistance:
If you are experiencing problems while trying to remove focus line redirect from your Internet browsers, please ask for assistance in our malware support forum.

Post a comment:
If you have additional information on focus line redirect or it's removal please share your knowledge in the comments section below.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Software uninstall instructions
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

QR Code
Focus Line redirect QR code
Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of Focus Line redirect on your mobile device.
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