What to do when the browser on your iOS device gets hijacked
Apple's operating systems are generally more secure than their counterparts, so catching a virus or some kind of malware on iOS is a lot less likely than it would be on Android. However, that doesn't mean that your iPhones and iPads are infallible, or that you will never have to deal with security issues. Since one of the most common forms of attack is browser hijacking, here's how you can deal with this type of situation in case it ever happens to you.
Getting into trouble on the Internet is quite easy. You can't possibly know every website there is, and all it takes is one visit to a bad link for you to start experiencing weird issues. However, before we talk about possible solutions, let's first see what kinds of problems you could be facing, and what are their symptoms: (Below you will also find a gallery with a few examples, in case you need some visual aids.)
- Weird redirects - you keep getting redirected to a site or a cycle of websites that try to convince you to install something on your device, buy a product or call a number. This usually happens either by telling you that you've won some kind of prize or scaring you into believing that something may be wrong with your iPhone or iPad.
- Home page change - each time you start your browser, it displays a strange webpage you're not familiar with, and no matter how many times you try to change it to the one that you prefer, it keeps changing back.
- Complete hijacking - you are being trapped in the same page or cycle of pages, and your browser doesn't allow you to visit any other pages.
In case you're experiencing any of these or similar issuess, here are two solutions that work in most cases:
Cleaning your settings
Since a lot of these problems are caused by malicious cookies, the simplest and usually most effective way to deal with them is by "cleaning" your browser. Simply delete your history, website data, cookies, etc., and everything should go back to normal. I'm assuming that the vast majority of people who are experiencing this kind of problems are Safari users, so in order to go on with the cleaning process, you will need to go to the iPhone's settings, then tap on Safari. Now, find the option named "Clean History and Website Data" and select it. If you're using an older iOS version, you will need to go to "Settings" --> "Safari" --> "Advanced" --> "Website Data" --> "Remove All Website Data". Additionally, since you're already tinkering with Safari's settings, you should also change the home page address so that you don't run into that same malicious cookie the moment you open the browser. In case the device isn't allowing you to delete the website data, or if nothing has changed, first, try disabling your Internet connection, then change Safari's settings once again.
If your browser problems happen exclusively while you're using a certain WiFi, and the previous fix didn't help you, then you might be dealing with a worse problem: the router you're using may have been compromised. Check the DNS settings to confirm the cause, then update the firmware. In case you need help figuring things out, you will find everything that you need in our previous article: "How to know and what to do if your router has been infected".
If your problems go beyond browsing capabilities, and some other important functionality has also been compromised, I recommend calling Apple's Support team or finding some other form of professional help. In case you have additional questions on browser-related issues, leave a question in the comments section or on our website's forum, and either a member of our team or someone from our community may help you out.
In case you're interested in reading more security-related stories, I recommend checking out "How to know if your PC is part of a botnet" or "What is ransomware and how to protect yourself against it".