When Your Search No Longer Says Google
Massive viruses still take over entire computers or networks in the world of computing at large, but most of the “infections” I deal with in terms of my clients are confined to the browser. That’s a good thing actually. It means that the problem is limited in scope. A browser redirect / hijack is as clear as day to me. You need to know how to spot it as well. When you search in the search box / address bar at the top of your browser (be it Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, etc) and the results page is not a Google page you have a problem. Virtually 100% of my clients have Google set as their default search engine. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the standard option in most browsers. However, when your search shows some weird “searchXYZ” in the address (or somewhere on the page) it means that your browser has been corrupted. Your searches are being captured. It’s also possible that everything you typed in your browser, including passwords and other sensitive information, has been transmitted to an unauthorized 3rd party since the date of the infection. This is a serious situation.
You need to reset your browser and remove the offending extensions. If you can’t do these tasks, ask for help. At that point, Google searching should return to normal.
With this said, there are other legitimate search engines out there. One that has come into the spotlight over the past few years is Duck Duck Go. Unlike Google, DDG is making privacy and a lack of censorship their top priorities. Apple has partnered with DDG by making it a default search option on the Safari browser. When you search for places on DDG, the results come up in Apple Maps. You don’t have to make DDG your default search engine to use it. You can simply go to https://duckduckgo.com/ and search at your leisure. While I still use Google for looking up local businesses and phone numbers, I am a big fan of Duck Duck Go.