Secured Search is the same piece of software as ByteFence Secure Browsing. It’s supposedly a tool that improves browsing security and privacy. In reality, it’s a browser hijacker. It alters your browser’s settings to promote securedsearch.com (which is not a legitimate search engine).
It can track your data to monitor your browsing activities online. Its propagation methods are dubious, to say the least, so it’s considered a Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA).
Browser hijackers love to target browsers with the largest user bases, such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome. Once infiltration is achieved, the typical changes include:
The result is that every search you type into the URL bar in your browser won’t go to Google (or Bing, or whatever you prefer) but to the promoted address. Securedsearch.com is the address in question, and that’s how it gets its traffic. As it happens with most fake search engines, securedsearch.com can’t come up with any unique results, so it eventually will redirect you to a real search engine.
This particular hijacker will redirect you to search.yahoo.com, which is obviously Yahoo’s search engine. So far, this could all seem relatively inoffensive to you, but hijackers can be much nastier. They can restrict or deny access to your own browser’s settings and reset any allowed changes made (this is the hijacking bit, more appropriately speaking).
And we already mentioned that Secured Search tracks data, monitors browser activity (that includes the URLs you visit, the pages you view, the things you type in search queries and other fields, it can even include usernames and passwords) as well as personal information (geolocation, IP address, further details as well). Your data, seemingly so ordinary, is valuable for those who know what to do with it. And those people buy the data Secured Search collects and use it for profit.
In short: if you have the browser hijacker in your system –or any other, for that matter — you have a privacy problem. You could face financial losses and, in the worst-case scenario, complete identity theft. So you need to deal with this problem as soon as humanly (and digitally) possible. You must get rid of any and all suspicious applications, browser extensions, or plug-ins as soon as you can detect them.
Secured Search is not alone in the world, of course. Other wrongdoers include File Converter Live, My Horoscope Tab, Maps N’ Direction Hub, just to name three. Still, there are plenty going around, and new ones pop up all the time.
From the very names of these software features, you can see how they purport to be legitimate tools of some kind, which is why people fall into the temptation to click and install.
They think that something useful will result. Which it does, just not for the user because those supposed features rarely do work at all. That’s how PUAs get your attention and persuade you to click where they want. But make no mistake. These things have one purpose only: to turn your personal data into a source of revenue.
Secured Search is on my computer. How did that happen?
Downloading the offender from a promotional site is a common way to have it installed on your computer. Several PUAs maintain such websites for that specific purpose, and they are crafted for deceit. But even more often, this kind of malware is installed along with other products in a bundle.
And when you install them in this way, you are even accepting everything the hijacker those, because it’s in the terms that you never read when you install new stuff. And who could blame you? Nobody reads them! But once you’ve authorized the thief to enter your digital home, it can execute scripts that download and install even more PUAs.
Do not allow PUAs to install in your system
If you install any piece of software on your computer, it should always be because you need it. It has to solve a specific problem. So you should do your due diligence and research a little about the options available in each case and download and install products only from official and verified sources.
So yes, you can find lots of fantastic, free, pre-hacked software in your P2P network of choice (BitTorrent, eMule, Gnutella, etc.), which looks great. And you still should not install it because it could include some fishy stuff in the bundle. Third-party downloaders can also offer tricky bundled content. When you install any new software, you should read the terms.
Yes, we mean it. At least have a cursory look at the text to make sure that you’re not handing off the kingdom’s keys to hackers. Study all the options. Use the custom or advance option when you’re installing so that you get an idea of where everything goes, what features are offered, etc. Also, opt-out of any additional “features” you don’t really want or need.
Careful browsing also helps. Intrusive advertising is the rule nowadays. It can redirect you to suspicious web pages (gambling, adult dating, porn, etc.) that can run unwanted processes in your system. When you come across that kind of site, check your process list at once and make sure that no new and fishy processes are suddenly running.
If Secured Search already infected you, you can run a Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows scan. It will automatically get rid of it. Of course, using an operating system other than Windows always helps with privacy and security.
Say no to Secured Search
Harassment is a way in which Secured Search will try to have its way with you. And you can just say no.
For instance, you’re browsing around or installing something, and a window pops up asking you the question “Add Secured Search?“. You can choose “Add extension” or “Cancel” Say no. Choose “Cancel.”
Or you come across a promotional website that says, “Browse safely with Secured Search extension.” Do not click on “Free Download.”
Yes, remaining safe from this hijacker can be as simple as that.
Automated help with Combo Cleaner
If you know your way around Windows, you know that you can remove this bug manually. You also know it’s complicated, it takes a lot of time and expertise, and it can always go wrong.
Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that we recommend to eliminate malware in general and Secured Search in particular. You can download, install and run this suite, and the problem will be gone.
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Le Monde Parallèle)