Have you ever been browsing a shopping site, reading a blog or watching videos and had the web page you are on suddenly redirect to a completely different webpage, often selling something that you would never buy? This annoying tactic has become fairly common in both web and mobile browsing, and having the usual advertisement blocking extension doesn’t seem to stop it. Let’s look at why this might be happening, how it could happen in the first place, and whether a user can stop a website redirecting to a different site.
Why Does It Happen?
Redirects are common in most websites. Webmasters who want their users to visit another website usually have a clickable link embedded in the content. However, with this traditional method, the user is given the choice to click or not to click on the link. The sudden redirects we are concerned about are automatic and unprompted. A user could be doing anything, such as reading a blog post, when the site suddenly decides to redirect the page to a completely different domain without any user input whatsoever. Sometimes, automatic redirects can happen if a viewer clicks on a video, for example.
These random redirects are mostly an annoying advertising tactic on par with the pop-up windows of the yore. Because an ad-blocker can easily stop pop-up windows, random redirects seem to have taken their place. Some users may feel like their browsers have been hijacked. However, it’s important to note that all redirects are not simply a form of annoying advertising. Some are much more sinister.
What is it? A Scam or Malware?
If your browser randomly redirects, there’s something either wrong with your computer, or there’s something wrong with the site. Some websites get hacked and the regular content can get replaced with something else. For example, if you go to myblog.com and see unusually irrelevant content on the site, it’s a good indication that the site has been hacked. You can report the hacked site to Google or Firefox, and stop visiting the site to protect your computer.
Some other random redirects, however, are caused by viruses and other malware that infect computers. For example, if you go to the Google website as usual but gets redirected, your computer is definitely infected with a redirect virus. Malware can hijack your browser or the DNS to cause redirects. If you go to your email and see a spam site, but the address is unchanged, then that’s a DNS hijacking. If the web pages load as usual but when you click on links you land on completely different sites, then it’s a browser hijacking.
How to Stop It
If the redirects are caused by the sites you are visiting, there’s nothing you can do about it. However, if they are being caused by malware infecting your computer, then you must promptly take steps to remove the malware.
You can purchase a reputable anti-virus program to remove malware from your computer easily. Additionally, uninstall all third-party unverified extensions on your browsers, including all toolbars. If you are on a PC, install all the latest Microsoft security updates. Also, consider upgrading or removing extensions like Flash. Security vulnerabilities in your browser extensions can open gateways for malware to enter your computer, therefore keep everything up to date.
As a long-term strategy to avoid such problems, use ad-blocking extensions when browsing. Do not click on suspicious links. Above all, don’t download anything unless the publisher is verified and the file has been scanned for viruses.