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How to change your default search engine to fight malware

Did you know that your computer’s default search engine could be funding malware development?

Some malware – particularly adware (which displays adverts on your computer) or spyware (which tracks how you use your computer) – changes your computer’s default search engine. It does this for two reasons, but they both have the same motivation: money.

By changing your search engine to one of the virus’ choosing, criminals can either gain money by displaying advertisements on your search results or get paid by legitimate search engines for sending traffic their way.

However, it’s important to remember that this is also a legitimate technique for small developers to earn money by giving away their free products, so it’s important to distinguish between the two. Usually, legitimate developers will ask for your permission to change your search engine (or add a toolbar) when you’re installing their product. The criminals aren’t as courteous.

If you’re not sure whether you’re using a real search engine or one chosen for your by malware authors, why not go through the steps below anyway and choose a search engine you like.

Typical legitimate search engines are Google or Bing, although Ask is often used, and Duck Duck Go is also growing in popularity.

How to change your default search engine

How do I change Chrome’s default search engine?

  1. Click the options icon in the top-right corner of Chrome (right of the address bar)
  2. Select “Options”
  3. Click “Basics” on the left-hand side
  4. Find “Search” on that page and choose a search provider from the drop-down menu

To add new search engines:

  • Select “Manage search engines”
  • Look for “Other search engines”. Chrome should automatically store whatever search engines you visit, so hover over the one you want and click “Make default”’. Just make sure you’ve visited it previously!

How do I change Firefox’s default search engine?

  1. Click on the icon on the left side of your search toolbar
  2. Choose the search provider you want from the drop-down menu

It’s that simple, although if a virus has deleted these options, you’ll need to add them back in. To do that:

  • Click Manage Search Engines
  • Click the “Get more search engines” link
  • Choose a search engine you like and click “Add to Firefox”.

How do I change Internet Explorer’s default search engine?

  1. Click the tools icon in the top-right corner of the open browser
  2. Choose “Manage add-ons”
  3. Choose “Search Providers” in the left-hand side of the box.
  4. Select the “Search Providers” add-on type
  5. Choose the search provider you’d like to make the default

Again, if there are no options, the virus could have tried to delete its competition. To add search providers:

  • Click “Find more search providers” (bottom left)
  • Click “Search” and type in the name of the search engine
  • Click to add

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