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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Home page hijackings

CATEGORY: Misconceptions about genuine threats

A misunderstood concept in which an agressive website forces a computer to visit them by default every time the user launches his/her browser.

GoHip.com earned noteriety in 1999 for using this tactic, and they continue to use it to this day. Indeed, their agressiveness goes a step further — they also modify your email program to include a GoHip endorsement in every message you write. See below for a specific link about GoHip.

Such agressiveness also goes by the name of "viral marketing" and "viral advertising." In effect, your PC turns into a relentless commercial for anyone who hijacks your browser's default settings.

Media reports about home page hijackings surfaced again in February 2001 after "United Parcel Service apologized to some 200,000 customers over software provided by the delivery giant that took the liberty of switching home page settings to the UPS Web site."

Some people claim they "had to reinstall Windows" to undo GoHip's home page hijacking. These claims appear unfounded — yet such agressive tactics can stymie even a seasoned computer user. This led one security firm to issue a "malicious code alert" about GoHip. Again, see below for a related link.

...Renowned virus expert David Chess (IBM) believes "viral marketing/advertising" doesn't accurately describe GoHip-like home page hijackings. "The phrase already has an established definition," he notes. "I'd suggest perhaps 'Trojan marketing' for what you're describing (except that it might be confused with deciding what romantic pictures to put on certain boxes of birth-control devices...)"

Last updated: 2001/2/26