Removing FortSearch browser hijacker and its redirects to fortsearch.xyz
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on
What is FortSearch?
FortSearch is a piece of rogue software. After analyzing it, we determined that this extension operates as a browser hijacker. FortSearch makes alterations to browser settings in order to promote (by causing redirects to) the fortsearch.xyz fake search engine.
FortSearch browser hijacker overview
Once installed onto our test system, FortSearch assigned fortsearch.xyz as the browser's default search engine, new tab/window, and homepage URLs. With these modifications, every new browser tab/window opened and Web search performed via the URL bar - resulted in a redirect to the fortsearch.xyz website.
Illegitimate search engines typically redirect to genuine ones since they cannot generate search results. This also applies to fortsearch.xyz, as we have observed it redirecting to the legitimate Bing search engine. However, fortsearch.xyz might land elsewhere since redirects can be dictated by various factors like user geolocation.
Browser-hijacking software typically employs persistence-ensuring techniques to prevent browser recovery.
Furthermore, FortSearch likely spies on users' browsing activity. Browser hijackers usually collect the following data: visited URLs, viewed pages, searched queries, personally identifiable details, usernames/passwords, credit card numbers, etc. The collected information can be shared with and/or sold to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals).
To summarize, the presence of software like FortSearch on devices can result in serious privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Detection Names (fortsearch.xyz)||Fortinet (Malware), Heimdal Security (Malicious), Forcepoint ThreatSeeker (Suspicious), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)|
|Serving IP Address (fortsearch.xyz)||188.8.131.52|
|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 countless browser hijackers; StreamTopSearch, QuickPDFConverterSearch, NewVideosSearch, BestSportSearch - are merely some examples. They appear legitimate and innocuous. Users are lured into download/installation with promises of "handy" features. However, these functions rarely work as advertised, and in most cases - they do not work at all.
How did FortSearch install on my computer?
Browser hijackers can be bundled (packed together) with ordinary programs. Download from dubious channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.) and rushed installations (e.g., skipped steps and sections, etc.) - increase the risk of allowing bundled content into the system.
Intrusive advertisements are used to proliferate browser-hijacking software as well. Once clicked on, some of these adverts are capable of making stealthy downloads/installations.
Browser hijackers are also endorsed through "official" promotional pages and scam sites. Users typically enter these webpages via redirects caused by mistyped URLs, websites using rogue advertising networks, spam browser notifications, intrusive ads, or installed adware.
How to avoid installation of browser hijackers?
We strongly advise to always research software prior to download/installation. Additionally, all downloads must be performed from official and trustworthy sources. When installing, it is important to read terms, study available options, use the "Custom" or "Advanced" settings, and opt-out of all supplements.
We also recommend exercising caution when browsing - since fraudulent and malicious content usually appears harmless. For example, intrusive adverts look legitimate, yet they redirect to unreliable/questionable sites (e.g., gambling, adult-dating, pornography, etc.).
If you experience advertisements and/or redirects of this kind, inspect the device and immediately remove all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with FortSearch, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Appearance of fortsearch.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 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 FortSearch?
- STEP 1. Uninstall FortSearch application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove FortSearch browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove fortsearch.xyz homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove fortsearch.xyz redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
FortSearch 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, "FortSearch"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications (which cause browser redirects to the fortsearch.xyz website), scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
FortSearch 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 "FortSearch" 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 "FortSearch", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.fortsearch.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 "fortsearch.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 fortsearch.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 "FortSearch", 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 "FortSearch", remove hxxp://fortsearch.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 fortsearch.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 fortsearch.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 fortsearch.xyz website?
Cyber criminals (i.e., developers of fake search engines and browser hijackers) generate revenue through redirects to sites like fortsearch.xyz.
Is visiting fortsearch.xyz a threat to my privacy?
To a certain extent, yes. Websites of this kind usually collect (and sell) information about their visitors.
How did a browser hijacker infiltrate my computer?
Browser hijackers are mainly spread via software bundling (program installers containing unwanted/malicious additions), misleading promotional webpages, freeware and third-party download websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (e.g., Torrent clients, eMule, etc.), online scams, fake updates, spam browser notifications, and intrusive advertisements.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove FortSearch browser hijacker?
Yes, Combo Cleaner can scan devices and eliminate detected browser-hijacking applications. It is pertinent to mention that manual removal (unaided by security programs) might not be a perfect solution when multiple browser hijackers have infiltrated the system. In these cases, when one browser hijacker is removed - the others might re-install it. Furthermore, removal-related settings can be unmodifiable with browser-hijacking software installed. Therefore, it is paramount to remove browser hijackers thoroughly and all at once.
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