Remove the Browser Hijacker

  • January 28, 2013

The toolbar is a program that is classified as a browser hijacker. It is considered a browser hijacker because it changes your home page and default search provide to This in itself is not considered malicious as there are many legitimate programs that change these settings as well. What is considered malicious, though, is that it will also append the argument to random Windows shortcuts on your desktop and your Windows Start Menu. This causes the web page to open when you launch one of these hijacked shortcuts, even when the shortcut has nothing to do with web browsing. For example, if the Microsoft Excel shortcut is hijacked, when you start Excel, your browser will also open and automatically go to the home page.

  • Browser Hijack

As you can see, this hijacker was created to make it difficult to clean up as even though you may remove the toolbar, the affected shortcuts will still remain. To remove this browser hijacker and clean the affected shortcuts, please use the removal guide below. Removal Options

Self Help Guide

This guide contains advanced information, but has been written in such a way so that anyone can follow it. Please ensure your data is backed up before proceeding.

If you are uncomfortable making changes to your computer or following these steps, do not worry! Instead you can get free one-on-one help by asking in the forums.
  1. Print out these instructions as we may need to close every window that is open later in the fix.

  2. It is possible that the infection you are trying to remove will not allow you to download files on the infected computer. If this is the case, then you will need to download the files requested in this guide on another computer and then transfer them to the infected computer. You can transfer the files via a CD/DVD, external drive, or USB flash drive.

  3. Before we can do anything we must first end the processes that belong to so that it does not interfere with the cleaning procedure. To do this, please download RKill to your desktop from the following link.

    RKill Download Link - (Download page will open in a new tab or browser window.)

    When at the download page, click on the Download Now button labeled iExplore.exe download link. When you are prompted where to save it, please save it on your desktop.

  4. Once it is downloaded, double-click on the iExplore.exe icon in order to automatically attempt to stop any processes associated with and other Rogue programs. Please be patient while the program looks for various malware programs and ends them. When it has finished, the black window will automatically close and you can continue with the next step. If you get a message that RKill is an infection, do not be concerned. This message is just a fake warning given by when it terminates programs that may potentially remove it. If you run into these infections warnings that close RKill, a trick is to leave the warning on the screen and then run RKill again. By not closing the warning, this typically will allow you to bypass the malware trying to protect itself so that rkill can terminate . So, please try running RKill until the malware is no longer running. You will then be able to proceed with the rest of the guide. If you continue having problems running RKill, you can download the other renamed versions of RKill from the rkill download page. All of the files are renamed copies of RKill, which you can try instead. Please note that the download page will open in a new browser window or tab.

    Do not reboot your computer after running RKill as the malware programs will start again.

  5. When Rkill has finished, we want to uninstall the Certified Toolbar program and associated software. To do this, click on the Start button and then select Control Panel. For Windows 8 you can access the Control Panel by searching for Control Panel at the Start Screen. When the Control Panel opens, double-click on one of the options below depending on your version of Windows

    For Windows XP double-click on the Add or Remove Programs icon.

    For Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, double-click on the Uninstall Program option.

    When the Add or Remove Programs or the Uninstall Program screen is displayed, please scroll through the list of programs and double-click on each of the entries listed in bold below to uninstall them. If you do not see any of the entries listed below do not be concerned and just continue with the guide.

    Certified Toolbar 2.1
    Protected Search 1.1

    When you double-click on each of the above entries to uninstall them, please follow the default prompts and allow it to remove all files and all configuration information related to this program. If any of the programs ask you to reboot your computer, do not allow it to reboot until you have uninstalled all of the programs listed above.

    When you are done, you can close the Control Panel screen.

  6. At this point you should download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, or MBAM, to scan your computer for any any infections or adware that may be present. Please download Malwarebytes from the following location and save it to your desktop:

    Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Download Link (Download page will open in a new window)

  7. Once downloaded, close all programs and Windows on your computer, including this one.

  8. Double-click on the icon on your desktop named mb3-setup-1878.1878- This will start the installation of MBAM onto your computer.

  9. When the installation begins, keep following the prompts in order to continue with the installation process. Do not make any changes to default settings and when the program has finished installing, make sure you leave Launch Malwarebytes Anti-Malware checked. Then click on the Finish button. If MalwareBytes prompts you to reboot, please do not do so.

  10. MBAM will now start and you will be at the main screen as shown below.

    Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

    Please click on the Scan Now button to start the scan. If there is an update available for Malwarebytes it will automatically download and install it before performing the scan.

  11. MBAM will now start scanning your computer for malware. This process can take quite a while, so we suggest you do something else and periodically check on the status of the scan to see when it is finished.

    Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

  12. When MBAM is finished scanning it will display a screen that displays any malware that it has detected. Please note that the infections found may be different than what is shown in the image below due to the guide being updated for newer versions of MBAM.

    MalwareBytes Scan Results

    You should now click on the Remove Selected button to remove all the seleted malware. MBAM will now delete all of the files and registry keys and add them to the programs quarantine. When removing the files, MBAM may require a reboot in order to remove some of them. If it displays a message stating that it needs to reboot, please allow it to do so. Once your computer has rebooted, and you are logged in, please continue with the rest of the steps.

  13. You can now exit the MBAM program.

  14. We now need to clean up the various Windows shortcuts that have been hijacked by . To do this, please download Shortcut Cleaner from the following web page and save it to your Windows desktop.

    Shortcut Cleaner Download Link -

  15. Once the file is downloaded, double-click on the ss-cleaner.exe file that should now be on your desktop. If you are using Windows Vista, 7, or 8 you will need to allow it to run when the prompt appears. Shortcut Cleaner will now start and scan your computer for hijacked Windows shortcuts and if any are found it will automatically clean them for you. When it is done, it will show you a log that contains a list of shortcuts that were cleaned. When you have finished reviewing the log file, please close it and continue with the rest of the steps.

  16. We now need to reset the home page Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Please perform the following steps for each of the installed browsers.

    1. Internet Explorer - Internet Explorer should already be reset. If not, then open IE and click on the Tools menu and then select Internet Options. On the General tab, change your home page to your desired home page and then close the options screen.

    2. Firefox- To reset Firefox click on the Tools menu and then select Option. When the settings screen opens, click on the General tab and change your home page to your desired site.

    3. Chrome - To reset Chome click on the menu button (Chrome Menu). When the menu appears, click on the Settings menu option. When the Settings screen opens, click on the Set Pages link under the On Startup category to specify the pages that should start automatically when Chrome opens.

  17. As many malware and unwanted programs are installed through vulnerabilities found in out-dated and insecure programs, it is strongly suggested that you use Secunia PSI to scan for vulnerable programs on your computer. A tutorial on how to use Secunia PSI to scan for vulnerable programs can be found here:

    How to detect vulnerable and out-dated programs using Secunia Personal Software Inspector


Your computer should now be free of the program. If your current anti-virus solution let this infection through, you may want to consider purchasing the PRO version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to protect against these types of threats in the future.

View Associated Files

%CommonStartMenu%\Programs\Protected Search\ %CommonStartMenu%\Programs\Protected Search\Protected Search Settings.lnk %AppData%\CertifiedToolbar\ %AppData%\CertifiedToolbar\CertifiedToolbar.dll %AppData%\CertifiedToolbar\64\ %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\ %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\1144574771.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\1536217936.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\1556257711.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\1X16_Trans.gif %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\contact.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\default_search_button.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\default_search_provider12.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\default_search_provider16.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\default_seperator.ico %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\freegames.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\help.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\home.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\privacy.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\refresh.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\settings.ini %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\shrink.png %LocalAppData%\CertifiedToolbar\upgrade.png %LocalAppData%\SimplyTech\ %LocalAppData%\SimplyTech\Toolbar\ %LocalAppData%\SimplyTech\Toolbar\settings.ini %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\ %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\InstallHelper.dll %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\InstallHelperNet4.dll %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\setupicon.ico %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\System.Data.SQLite.dll %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\ToolbarUninstall.exe %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\unins000.dat %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\unins000.exe %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\chrome\ %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\chrome\CertifiedToolbar.crx %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\ %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\chrome.manifest %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\install.js %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\install.rdf %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\pop.htm %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\chrome\ %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\chrome\CertifiedToolbar_2873.jar %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\components\ %ProgramFiles%\CertifiedToolbar\\components\wtb_complete.js %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\ %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\ProtectedSearch.exe %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\ProtectedSearch.ico %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\ProtectedSearchSettings.exe %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\System.Data.SQLite.dll %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\TaskScheduler.dll %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\TaskSchedulerCreator.exe %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\unins000.dat %ProgramFiles%\Protected Search\unins000.exe %WinDir%\Launcher.exe %WinDir%\Tasks\Protected Search.job

File Location Notes:

%Windir% refers to the Windows installation folder. By default, this is C:\Windows for Windows 95/98/ME/XP/Vista/7/8 or C:\Winnt for Windows NT/2000.

%ProgramFiles% refers to the Program Files folder. The path to this folder is C:\Program Files\ or C:\Program Files (X86)\ depending on whether the version of Windows or the program being installed is 32-bit or 64-bit.

%AppData% refers to the current users Application Data folder. By default, this is C:\Documents and Settings\<Current User>\Application Data for Windows 2000/XP. For Windows Vista and Windows 7 it is C:\Users\<Current User>\AppData\Roaming.

%LocalAppData% refers to the current users Local settings Application Data folder. By default, this is C:\Documents and Settings\<Current User>\Local Settings\Application Data for Windows 2000/XP. For Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 it is C:\Users\<Current User>\AppData\Local.

%CommonStartMenu% refers to the Windows Start Menu for All Users. Any programs or files located in the All Users Start menu will appear in the Start Menu for all user accounts on the computer. For Windows XP, Vista, NT, 2000 and 2003 it refers to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\, and for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 it is C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\.

View Associated Registry Information

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\AppDataLow\Software\Simplytech\CertifiedToolbar HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AppID\CertifiedToolbar.DLL HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\wtb.Band HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\wtb.NotificationSource HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\wtb.SourceSinkImpl HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\wtb.ToolbarInfo HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Extensions\{1c632c0a-9751-4778-8ef1-a1778a4d0caf} HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Low Rights\ElevationPolicy\{cfd485f0-96bd-47cd-bb6d-cd7dda95f102} HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{afdbddaa-5d3f-42ee-b79c-185a7020515b} HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Browser Helper Objects\{8ce31ebd-051a-495f-9b41-3cc886889da8} HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\{d45ddd00-fad4-42c9-92b3-d4fa6bc98d19}_is1 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\Protected Search_is1 HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\AppDataLow\Software\Simplytech\CertifiedToolbar "ShowToolbar" = "1" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\CertifiedToolbar HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ProtectedSearch HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\AboutURLs "Tabs" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main "Default_Search_URL" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main "Search Bar" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main "Start Default_Page_URL" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Search "Default_Search_URL" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Search "Search Bar" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Search "Search Page" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Search "Start Default_Page_URL" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Search "Start Page" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{6A1806CD-94D4-4689-BA73-E35EA1EA9990} "SuggestionsURL_JSON" = "{searchTerms}" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{6A1806CD-94D4-4689-BA73-E35EA1EA9990} "TopResultURLFallback" = "{searchTerms}" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchURI "(Default)" = "" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchUrl "(Default)" = ""

This is a self-help guide. Use at your own risk. can not be held responsible for problems that may occur by using this information. If you would like help with any of these fixes, you can ask for malware removal assistance in our Virus,Trojan,Spyware, and Malware Removal Logs forum.

If you have any questions about this self-help guide then please post those questions in our Am I infected? What do I do? and someone will help you.

search guides


Remember Me
Sign in anonymously