The increase in customization options for your browser has led to it landing right in the crosshairs for certain types of malware that, among other things, change your start page or show pop-up windows without your consent. In response, Google has recently launched its Software Removal Tool, a cleanup tool to remove these sorts of problems from your system.
Babylon, Ask or Conduit are some of the many names you might find on your system in the shape of browser extensions or directly on your list of installed programs on Windows. In most cases, these things get installed thanks to how tricky the web: click on a dodgy link or install a program whose monetization system is based on promoting third-party services and next thing you know you’re browser is full of junk. In any case, the most common symptoms are quite easy to detect:
- Your default search engine is no longer Google or the one you had set before, and even when you try to change it from Settings > Search, it continues to reset to the new engine.
- Your start page when you open a new tab is an unknown website and you can’t change that, either.
- You periodically get pop-ups on your screen and have no idea where they came from, and even when you try to block them they keep coming back.
Software Removal Tool is the official tool from Google that is lightweight and requires no installation. Its purpose is to remove this sort of malware that usually sneaks in unawares by installing itself on your browser and adding itself to the list of programs that launch automatically when you start Windows. But just to be clear: the program is not an antivirus nor does it provide any sort of permanent preventive protection. It simply scans your browser to restore it to its default state, as if you had just installed it.
When you run the tool a window will appear with the number of malicious items detected. Once you clean your browser you’ll have to restart your computer. That said, it’s not 100% efficient, but the official support page for Google contains custom solutions for certain types of infection.