How to remove the Hockey Start browser hijacker
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is Hockey Start?
While investigating suspicious websites, our researchers found one endorsing the Hockey Start browser extension. It is presented as a tool for quick access to hockey sports related online content.
However, after we analyzed this extension, we determined that it changes browser settings to promote the search.nstart.online fake search engine. Due to this behavior, Hockey Start is classified as a browser hijacker.
Hockey Start browser hijacker overview
When we installed Hockey Start on our test machine, it reassigned the browser's default search engine, homepage, and new tab/window URLs to the search.nstart.online website. Therefore, when we opened a new browser tab/window or entered a search query into the URL bar – it resulted in a redirect to search.nstart.online.
Illegitimate search engines rarely can provide search results, so they tend to redirect to genuine ones. This also applies to search.nstart.online; at the time of research, it redirected to the Bing search engine (bing.com). However, search.nstart.online might land elsewhere since redirects may be dictated by various factors (e.g., geolocation, etc.).
Furthermore, like most browser hijackers, Hockey Start employs persistence-ensuring techniques to prevent users from recovering their browsers.
What is more, this rogue extension likely spies on users' browsing activity. Browser-hijacking software usually collects the following information: visited URLs, viewed pages, searched queries, log-in credentials, personally identifiable details, finance-related data, etc. The collected information can be shared with and/or sold to third-parties.
In summary, the presence of software like Hockey Start 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|
|Browser Extension(s)||Hockey Start|
|Supposed Functionality||Easy access to hockey-related content|
|Detection Names (search.nstart.online)||N/A (VirusTotal)|
|Serving IP Address (search.nstart.online)||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).|
|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 inspected countless browser hijackers; Capital Buff, Games Day, Art Tab, Racing Cars Tab, World Clock Tab – are merely some examples.
This software usually appears legitimate and harmless. Users are lured into download/installation with promises of "handy" functionalities. However, these functions seldom work as advertised, and in most cases – they do not work at all. Even if a browser hijacker operates as indicated by its promotional material – that is not proof of either legitimacy or safety.
How did Hockey Start install on my computer?
We acquired Hockey Start from its "official" promotional page. Browser hijackers are also pushed through scam websites. Most users enter such sites via redirects caused by webpages using rogue advertising networks, misspelled URLs, spam browser notifications, intrusive ads, or installed adware.
Additionally, browser-hijacking software can be bundled (packed together) with regular programs. Download from dubious channels (e.g., freeware and third-party sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.) and rushed installations (e.g., skipped steps, used "Easy/Quick" settings, etc.) – increase the risk of unintentionally allowing bundled content into the system.
Intrusive advertisements proliferate browser hijackers as well. Once clicked on, some of the adverts can execute scripts to perform downloads/installations without user consent.
How to avoid installation of browser hijackers?
We strongly recommend researching software and downloading only from official/verified channels. It is just as important to approach installation with caution. Hence, it is crucial to read terms, study possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings, and opt out of all supplements.
Another recommendation is to be vigilant when browsing since fake and malicious content usually appears legitimate. For example, intrusive ads may look harmless yet redirect to highly questionable websites (e.g., gambling, pornography, adult dating, etc.).
In case of encounters with such advertisements/redirects, check the device and immediately remove all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with Hockey Start, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this browser hijacker.
Permissions asked by Hockey Start browser hijacker:
Website promoting Hockey Start browser hijacker:
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 Hockey Start?
- STEP 1. Uninstall unwanted applications using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove Hockey Start browser hijacker from Google Chrome.
- STEP 3. Remove search.nstart.online homepage and default search engine from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 4. Remove search.nstart.online redirect from Safari.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
Hockey Start 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, select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".
After uninstalling the potentially unwanted applications, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.
Hockey Start 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 "Hockey Start" 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 "Hockey Start", look for a browser hijacker URL (hxxp://www.search.nstart.online) 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 "search.nstart.online", 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 search.nstart.online 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 "Hockey Start", 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 "Hockey Start", remove hxxp://search.nstart.online 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 search.nstart.online 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 search.nstart.online 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 search.nstart.online website?
Cyber criminals (i.e., browser hijackers and fake search engines) generate revenue through redirects to websites like search.nstart.online.
Is visiting search.nstart.online a threat to my privacy?
To a certain extent, yes. Sites like search.nstart.online usually collect (and sell) visitor data.
How did a browser hijacker infiltrate my computer?
Browser hijackers are primarily distributed via bundled installers, deceptive promotional pages, freeware and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, online scams, spam browser notifications, and intrusive ads.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove Hockey Start browser hijacker?
Yes, Combo Cleaner can scan devices and eliminate detected browser-hijacking applications. It must be mentioned that manual removal (performed without the aid of security programs) might not be ideal. In cases where multiple browser hijackers are present, after one is removed – the others may simply reinstall it. Furthermore, browser-hijacking software might restrict access to removal-related settings. Therefore, it is paramount to eliminate browser hijackers thoroughly and all at once.
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