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My first ever run-in with adware
Posted by: tuqqer
Date: January 09, 2015 01:09PM
Well that was interesting: for the first time in my entire 21-year Mac career, I found a Mac that had a type of malware (specifically, adware) that had me stumped as to how to remove it, and what was going on.

Like many of you MacResourcers, I help a lot of friends with their Macs. A young friend of mine called me yesterday and said that her browsers (Safari and Firefox) were constantly telling her (in popup windows) that she had viruses and needed to phone a number (see attached screenshot), as well as opening up to windows that were selling here dubious virus and speed-up software.

I was sure it wasn't a virus, but figured I knew what to do. I did a Video Conference with her, did a live screenshare, opened a browser on her Mac (2013 MBA with Yosemite), and was confronted with popup windows I couldn't get out of, and sites to stupidity like MacKeeper and their half-dozen rebrands. I force-quit and removed the .plist files, wiped the cache and history, and restarted. Problem still existed. I checked her Login items, applications/utilities, Activity Monitor, all sorts of normal things, and still the problem existed. Finally, I had her physically come over to my place so I could work on the MBAir with my own hands. Still the problem.

Also, she had these weird ads show up in Netflix, Amazon, that you could tell weren't part of the site, but laid on top of the pages. One of these said the name of the ad company, so I did a Google search and found out about adware:

What is adware?

Adware is unwanted software that uses sneaky and dishonest methods to get installed on your computer, and then changes the behavior of your web browser. Once installed, it does things like injecting advertisements into web pages, causing pop-up windows or tabs to open to advertising sites, and changing your home page and/or search engine.

Although adware sounds like malware, there is a crucial difference: adware on the Mac has never been documented to involve keylogging, back doors or any other such malicious activities... just unwanted advertising. As such, most anti-virus software doesn't bother to detect most adware, and if it does, it doesn't do a very comprehensive job of detecting it. This is where AdwareMedic comes in - it detects the adware that anti-virus software doesn't.



Long story short: I found this site, www.thesafemac.com, whose author has created a free app (AdwareMedic) that removes all of the known adware extensions, launch agents, and a bunch more files from folders I'd never heard of. AdwareMedic is just a script that knows where theses files live and removes them, so you can manually remove them, too, as long as you know where they live.

I ran that app (really a script), and sure enough, it discovered about 20 files causing the weird behavior in her browsers. Removed them, restarted the Mac, and all is now well.

This is not viruses, and in my thinking, there's still no reason to run virus software on a Mac. It just affects browsers, and I'm pretty sure that it did require the user to download and and then manually install these adwares, so I taught her to never install stuff she's unsure of.

I decided to run AdwareMedic on all my Macs: we were clean.

I'd really be curious to see if any of you MacResourcers find any of these adware files on your Macs. Again, AdwareMedic is free, and just a script, and you can also just manually locate all the files from the locations the author points out here: [www.thesafemac.com]

Report back. It would be interesting to see how wide spread this issue is.





M1 2020 Mac mini (16G 2T) Monterey 12.x Dual 25" Acer 1440p LCDs M1 2020 13" MBAir (256G 8G)
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Re: My first ever run-in with adware
Posted by: btfc
Date: January 09, 2015 01:12PM
Recent thread:

[forums.macresource.com]


Thanks for posting your experience!
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Re: My first ever run-in with adware
Posted by: tuqqer
Date: January 09, 2015 01:49PM
whoops. thanks for the heads up, btfc.



M1 2020 Mac mini (16G 2T) Monterey 12.x Dual 25" Acer 1440p LCDs M1 2020 13" MBAir (256G 8G)
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Re: My first ever run-in with adware
Posted by: kahuna1342
Date: January 09, 2015 03:17PM
After reading the thread the other day, I ran AdwareMedic on my machines to satisfy my curiosity. Just as I thought, clean as a whistle. smiling smiley





Two wrongs don't make a right, but, three rights make a left.
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Re: My first ever run-in with adware
Posted by: GuyGene
Date: January 09, 2015 04:40PM
Even though it was on the phorum recently, still, thanks tuq for the heads up. I hate, loathe mess that messes with me Macs.



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