What is Protected-Browsing?
While inspecting dubious download pages, our research team discovered the Protected-Browsing browser extension. After analyzing this piece of software, we determined that it operates as a browser hijacker promoting the protected-browsing.xyz fraudulent search engine.
Protected-Browsing browser hijacker overview
With Protected-Browsing installed onto our test machine, every new browser tab/window opened and search query typed into the URL bar - resulted in a redirect to the protected-browsing.xyz website. This extension caused the redirects by making modifications to the browser's settings. Furthermore, this hijacker employs persistence-ensuring techniques to prevent browser recovery.
Fake search engines usually redirect to legitimate ones as they cannot provide search results, and this applies to protected-browsing.xyz as well. We observed it redirecting to the Bing search engine (bing.com). However, it might land elsewhere depending on certain factors like user geolocation.
What is more, browser-hijacking software tends to spy on users' browsing activity, and Protected-Browsing is not an exception. Information of interest includes: visited URLs, viewed webpages, searched queries, personally identifiable details, usernames/passwords, finance-related data, etc. The gathered information is then monetized through sale to third-parties.
In summary, the presence of Protected-Browsing or similar software may result in severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Detection Names (protected-browsing.xyz)||N/A (VirusTotal)|
|Serving IP Address (protected-browsing.xyz)||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.
Browser hijacker examples
We have analyzed thousands of browser hijackers; Mini Dark, Defense-Search, Baro Search, and MySpace Tab are merely some examples of our latest finds. They typically appear legitimate and lure users into download/installation with "handy" features. However, the functions seldom work as promised, and in most cases - they are utterly nonoperational.
How did Protected-Browsing install on my computer?
We obtained Protected-Browsing from its "official" download webpage. Users seldom enter such sites intentionally; most access them via redirects caused by pages using rogue advertising networks, mistyped URLs, spam browser notifications, intrusive advertisements, or installed adware.
Browser hijackers are also proliferated using the bundling technique - packing regular program installers with unwanted/malicious additions. Download from untrustworthy sources (e.g., unofficial and freeware sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.) and rushed installations - increase the risk of allowing bundled content into the system.
Intrusive advertisements are employed to spread browser-hijacking software as well. Once clicked on, some of these ads can execute scripts to make downloads/installations without user consent.
How to avoid installation of browser hijackers?
Caution is key to device and user safety. We strongly recommend researching software and downloading only from official and verified sources. Additionally, installation must be approached with care, e.g., reading terms, studying possible options, using the "Custom/Advanced" settings, and opting-out of all supplements.
We also advise being vigilant when browsing since fraudulent and malicious content tends to look legitimate. For example, intrusive adverts appear ordinary and harmless, yet they redirect to highly questionable sites (e.g., gambling, pornography, adult-dating, etc.).
If you experience such ads and/or redirects, check the system and immediately remove all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with Protected-Browsing, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Deceptive websites promoting Protected-Browsing browser hijacker:
Appearance of protected-browsing.xyz redirecting to the Bing 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 Protected-Browsing?
- STEP 1. Uninstall Protected-Browsing application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove Protected-Browsing browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove protected-browsing.xyz homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove protected-browsing.xyz redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
Protected-Browsing 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, "Protected-Browsing"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications (which cause browser redirects to the protected-browsing.xyz website), scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
Protected-Browsing 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 "Protected-Browsing" 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 "Protected-Browsing", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.protected-browsing.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:
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 "protected-browsing.xyz", 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 protected-browsing.xyz 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 plugins from Mozilla Firefox:
Click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click on "Extensions" and remove "Protected-Browsing", 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 "Protected-Browsing", remove hxxp://protected-browsing.xyz 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 protected-browsing.xyz 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 protected-browsing.xyz 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.
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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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the purpose of forcing users to visit protected-browsing.xyz website?
Users are forced to visit websites like protected-browsing.xyz because cyber criminals (i.e., developers of fake search engines and browser hijackers) generate revenue via these redirects.
Is visiting protected-browsing.xyz a threat to my privacy?
Most likely, yes. Websites like protected-browsing.xyz collect (and sell) information about their visitors.
How did a browser hijacker infiltrate my computer?
Browser hijackers are mainly spread through software bundling, deceptive promotional sites, freeware and third-party download websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, online scams, fake updates, spam browser notifications, and intrusive advertisements.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove Protected-Browsing browser hijacker?
Yes, Combo Cleaner can scan devices and eliminate installed browser-hijacking applications. It is noteworthy that manual removal (unaided by security programs) might not be ideal. In cases when multiple browser hijackers are present - after one is removed, the others might re-install it. Additionally, removal-related settings may be inaccessible with this software installed. Therefore, browser hijackers must be eliminated thoroughly and all at once.