What is the AnchorFree virus (redirect/hijacker)?
The AnchorFree virus is a term used to describe potential malware categorized as a browser hijacker that installs to a computer and attaches to internet browsers with or without consent, often alongside additional software. AnchorFree malware changes internet browser settings including the homepage (start up page) and default search engine, as well as modifies registry entries in order to cause popular internet browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Internet Explorer to redirect to search.anchorfree.net, search.anchorfree.com, anchorfree.us, ask.com, search.conduit.com, and other websites especially associated with their browser hijacker identified as Hotspot Shield Toolbar. AnchorFree also causes internet browsers to target unwanted search engines upon start-up.
AnchorFree produces such potential malware as Hotspot Shield Client and Toolbar that primarily causes problematic symptoms. Removing these additional items often stops internet browsers from redirecting to anchorfree.net, anchorfree.com, and other websites.
AnchorFree and relating websites are dangerous for many reasons concerning third-party malware, malicious advertisements, and the invasion of privacy. Victims of AnchorFree malware have reported personal information being used without their consent. Victims have reported excessive amounts of email spam, junk mail, and phone calls from telemarketers concerning recent computing and internet browsing activity. This may cause some to identify AnchorFree as spyware.
Data collected and distributed by AnchorFree and related third-parties may include bank account information, credit information, home addresses, social security numbers, telephone numbers, complete browsing activity, social media relationships, and more. Most information collected by AnchorFree includes content users manually input while AnchorFree add-ons, extensions, and software is installed onto the computer. If signing into a social media account, AnchorFree and relating malware will track the activity and possibly gather information concerning your friends and followers. In some cases, related malware may compromise Facebook accounts and post or message friends without knowledge of the account holder.
Many reports also indicate strange employee behavior, spam comments on legitimate websites, fake profiles, reputation manipulation, and forum spam. The AnchorFree and AnchorFree products, including search results displayed on the mass array of relating websites are definitely something you want to avoid and remove if the item is already on your computer.
AnchorFree malware may also be the culprit of unwanted pop-up ads and additional adware attached to the infected computer system.
How does AnchorFree malware infect a computer?
AnchorFree and associated products can be contracted via downloadable content such as freeware, shareware, codecs, and torrents. AnchorFree is often promoted in the installers of such items and in some cases users have the opportunity to opt out of installing software that will cause the AnchorFree redirect, though that may not always be the case. It should also be noted in a recent study, we were able to identify complications attempting to cancel AnchorFree products from installing.
Many third-party websites such as download.com allow users to install AnchorFree software including Hotspot Shield. AnchorFree has many websites where unwanted software can downloaded from, which is common for unethical websites, companies, and software. This is sometimes essential for scam artists as technical researches and security experts catch on and the websites reputations are tarnished one by one. This is often a tell-tale sign that the initial party should be avoided.
On a side note, Microsoft Internet Explorer has tracked most domains associated with anchorfree.net websites and will restrict them from changing or “corrupting” search providers without consent, but will still leave the AnchorFree item installed and attached to the browser.
How to remove AnchorFree malware
- Automatically remove AnchorFree malware – Scan for and automatically remove AnchorFree products and third-party malware
- Manually remove AnchorFree – Remove/Uninstall AnchorFree software and third-party malware
1. Automatic AnchorFree removal
Use the instructions below to automatically remove the AnchorFree hijacker and third-party malware, as well as automatically remove unwanted search engines from your home page, default search engine, browser shortcuts, and other hijacked settings.
1. Install the free or paid version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.
2. Once Malwarebytes is installed, run the program. If you are using the free version of Malwarebytes you will be prompted to update the database, make sure to do so.
3. On the first tab labeled “Scanner” select the Perform full scan option and click the Scan button to perform a full system scan. Malwarebytes will automatically detect malware infecting the computer system.
4. Once the malware scan is complete, Malwarebytes may prompt a notice stating malicious objects were detected. Select the malicious objects and click the Remove Selected button to completely remove the malicious files from your computer (the image below shows a file that is NOT selected) or click the Delete button to remove quarantined files.
CCleaner can be used to automatically repair internet browser settings startup up settings, and uninstall AnchorFree and associated third-party software. It should be noted that AnchorFree at minimal installs to software titles, 1 Hotspot Shield and 2 Hotspot Shield Toolbar (or Client – MS IE).
1. Install the free or paid version of CCleaner by Piriform.
2. Once installed, open the program and navigate to Cleaner > Windows/Applications and click the Analyze button. Afterwards, click the Run Cleaner button on the bottom right of the program interface.
3. Next, navigate to Tools > Startup and search through each tab starting from windows, internet explorer, etc., all the way to Content Menu, for additional suspicious entries and click Delete once anything is found (shown in the video below).
4. To automatically uninstall AnchorFree and other unwanted programs, navigate to the Uninstall tab and search for AnchorFree software, etc. in the list of installed programs. Uninstall the unwanted software as selected by clicking the Run Uninstaller button.
To video an additional video showing how to remove Hotspot Search registry entries using CCleaner please click here.
2. Manual AnchorFree removal
Use the instructions below to manually uninstall AnchorFree and third-party software using generic Microsoft Windows removal procedures.
How to uninstall AnchorFree malware
1. Access Windows Start Menu and navigate to the Control Panel.
2. Click Uninstall a program or Add and remove a program.
3. In the list of installed programs, search for AnchorFree, Hotspot Shield Toolbar, Hotspot Shield, Ask Toolbar, and other potentially unwanted software. Once located, double click the unwanted programs or highlight them in the list and click the Uninstall button.
How to remove AnchorFree Toolbar add-ons and extensions
Use the instructions to remove AnchorFree Toolbar add-ons, extensions, and plug-ins such as Hotspot Shield Class. Please note, it may be necessary to remove multiple third-party titles.
1. Click on the Customize icon (wrench or 3 bar icon) next to the address bar and navigate to Tools > Extensions.
2. Search for the AnchorFree extension and remove it by clicking the trashcan icon next to them.
1. Type Ctrl+Shift+A.
2. On the Extensions and Plugin search for the AnchorFree add-on and remove it.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
1. Click Tools and select Manage add-ons.
2. On the Toolbars and Extensions tab search for the AnchorFree add-on (Hotspot Shield Class) and remove it if located.