What is Search-Zone?
While inspecting deceptive sites, our research team discovered one endorsing the Search-Zone browser extension. After analyzing this piece of software, we learned that it operates as a browser hijacker. Search-Zone modifies browsers in order to cause to the searchzone.xyz fake search engine.
Search-Zone browser hijacker overview
Browser hijackers reassign the URLs of browsers' homepages, default search engines, and new tabs/windows to the promoted addresses. With Search-Zone installed onto our test machine, new browser tabs/windows opened and Web searches performed via the URL bar - resulted in redirects to the searchzone.xyz website.
Additionally, browser-hijacking software uses persistence-ensuring techniques to prevent browser recovery, and this applies to Search-Zone.
Fake search engines are rarely capable of providing search results, so they redirect to legitimate ones. Searchzone.xyz redirected to the Google search engine (google.com) during our analysis. Keep in mind that where such a site lands may vary based on certain factors (e.g., user geolocation, etc.).
Furthermore, Search-Zone has data-tracking abilities. Browser hijackers typically target: visited URLs, viewed webpages, searched queries, usernames/passwords, personally identifiable details, finance-related information, and so on. The collected data can then be monetized via sale to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals).
To summarize, the presence of software like Search-Zone on devices can lead to system infections, serious privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.
|Threat Type||Browser Hijacker, Redirect, Search Hijacker, Toolbar, Unwanted New Tab|
|Detection Names (searchzone.xyz)||Seclookup (Malicious), Forcepoint ThreatSeeker (Suspicious), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)|
|Serving IP Address (searchzone.xyz)||184.108.40.206|
|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
Browser-hijacking software usually appears legitimate and offers various functionalities. However, they are seldom operational. It must be emphasized that even if the promised features of a browser hijacker do work - that is not a sign of its legitimacy.
How did Search-Zone install on my computer?
We obtained Search-Zone from a deceptive site. Dubious software-promoting webpages are primarily accessed via redirects caused by websites using rogue advertising networks, mistyped URLs, intrusive adverts, spam browser notifications, or installed adware.
Browser hijackers can also be bundled (packed together) with ordinary programs. Download from dubious channels (e.g., freeware and third-party websites, P2P sharing networks, etc.) and rushed installations (e.g., skipped steps and sections, etc.) increase the risk of inadvertently permitting bundled content into the device.
Intrusive advertisements proliferate browser-hijacking software as well. When clicked on, some of the ads can execute scripts to perform downloads/installations without user permission.
How to avoid installation of browser hijackers?
We strongly recommend researching software and downloading only from official/verified sources. Furthermore, when installing - read terms, study available options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings, and opt-out of all additions.
We advise being cautious while browsing since fraudulent and malicious content usually appears harmless. For example, intrusive ads look ordinary/innocuous yet redirect to highly questionable sites (e.g., gambling, pornography, adult-dating, etc.).
In case of encounters with such adverts/redirects, check the device and immediately remove all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with Search-Zone, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Permissions asked by Search-Zone browser hijacker:
Deceptive website promoting Search-Zone browser hijacker:
Appearance of searchzone.xyz 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 Search-Zone?
- STEP 1. Uninstall Search-Zone application using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove Search-Zone browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove searchzone.xyz homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove searchzone.xyz redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
Search-Zone 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, "Search-Zone"), select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications (which cause browser redirects to the searchzone.xyz website), scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
Search-Zone 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 "Search-Zone" and other recently-installed suspicious extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".
Change your homepage:
Click the Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Settings". In the "On startup" section, disable "Search-Zone", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.searchzone.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 "searchzone.xyz", when located click the three vertical dots near this URL and select "Delete".
- If you continue to have problems with browser redirects and unwanted advertisements - Reset Google Chrome.
If you continue to have problems with removal of the searchzone.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 extensions from Mozilla Firefox:
Click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons and themes". Click "Extensions", in the opened window locate "Search-Zone", as well as all recently-installed suspicious extensions, click on the three dots and then click "Remove".
Change your homepage:
To reset your homepage, click the Firefox menu (at the top right corner of the main window), then select "Settings", in the opened window disable "Search-Zone", remove hxxp://searchzone.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 "Accept the Risk and Continue".
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 searchzone.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 searchzone.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 searchzone.xyz website?
Cyber criminals (i.e., developers of browser hijackers and fake search engines) generate revenue through redirects to sites like searchzone.xyz.
Is visiting searchzone.xyz a threat to my privacy?
Most likely, yes. Websites like searchzone.xyz typically collect visitor data.
How did a browser hijacker infiltrate my computer?
Browser hijackers are most commonly distributed through bundled program installers, deceptive promotional websites, third-party and freeware download sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, online scams, spam browser notifications, and intrusive advertisements.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove Search-Zone browser hijacker?
Yes, Combo Cleaner will scan your computer and eliminate installed browser-hijacking applications. Note that manual removal (unaided by security programs) might not be an ideal solution. In cases when multiple browser hijackers are present, after one is removed - the others can simply re-install it. Furthermore, removal-related settings might be inaccessible with this software installed. Therefore, browser hijackers must be removed thoroughly and all at once.