Browser Hacking Hits Mainstream

Gretchen Gallen
CYBERSPACE – As lawmakers consider ways to outlaw spyware and adware, another invasive computer program is catching the eye of mainstream, and this time it involves an assault of porn content against computer users.

Security analyst have already determined that as many as 90 percent of all computers contain unauthorized spyware downloads, but the emergence of a browser hijacking program called CoolWebSearch, also known as CWS, could be the next big malware threat to face security software experts.

At present, the makers behind CWS are unknown, but it is so far being considered one of the more invasive browser hijackers in existence, with the exception of Xupiter, a similarly programmed toolbar program that downloads randomly onto a computer hard drive and can change users' designated homepages, download other programs, redirect all searches to other sites, and block any attempts to restore the original browser settings.

After first being spotted last summer, CWS has reportedly incarnated itself into more than a dozen different variants. It has also been called the most "complex, invisible and devious hijacker" ever programmed, according to an expert who has followed CWS' progress from the beginning.

By definition, malware is short for malicious software that is designed specifically to damage or disrupt a system, such as a virus or a Trojan horse. Browser hackers like CWS and its brethren Xupiter can change browser settings and change default settings, and in CWS' case, the program launches a continuous assualt of porn pop-ups. The malware program also bookmarks hardcore porn sites in the users' browser.

CWS has also been known to hijack personal information off an infected computer and some of its variants can automatically update their own source code.

CWS variants are being detected on a weekly basis and the majority of antivirus programs can do little, if anything, to stop it from infecting a system. In some instances, the malware program can self-install without requiring the consent of the user.

Only computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system and Explorer browsers are vulnerable.