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How to remove Maftask virus process from Mac [Apr 2020]


This post provides details on the malicious Mac process called Maftask (Maf-Task), explains what it has to do with Spchlpr, Hlpradc, hiprade, helperamc and helpermcp viruses, and includes removal steps.

Update: April 2020

Threat Profile
Name Mac Auto Fixer fake system utility
Category Mac scareware, rogue system cleaner
Malicious process name Maftask
Detection Avast: MacOS:AMC-DK [PUP], BitDefender: Adware.MAC.Generic.12496, ESET: A Variant Of OSX/GT32SupportGeeks.B, Microsoft: PUA:MacOS/AMCleaner.B!MTB, Sophos: AdvancedMacCleaner (PUA), Symantec: OSX.Trojan.Gen.2
Symptoms Displays misleading scan reports and follow-up alerts, deteriorates system performance, redirects web browser to unwanted sites
Distribution Techniques Freeware bundles, torrents, booby-trapped software updates, misleading popup ads, spam
Severity Level Medium
Damage Mac slowdown, obtrusive alerts, privacy issues due to Internet activity tracking, browser redirects, redundant online ads
Removal Scan your Mac with Combo Cleaner to detect all files related to the browser hijacker. Use the tool to remove the infection if found.

Underestimating the capabilities and complexity of Mac malware is a slippery slope. The threat actors who zero in on the Apple ecosystem are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and their malicious code can assume different shapes to evade detection and prevent termination. Mac Auto Fixer, one of the fairly sophisticated samples from that category, injects its tentacles deep inside a host system and sprinkles concomitant files and processes in order to persevere. Some victims fail to notice these extra fragments of the infection, but those who look for them typically spot an executable file named “maftask” or "maf-task". It is listed among the running processes in the contaminated Mac’s Activity Monitor, and another entry “com.techyutil.maftask.plist” is going to end up in the LaunchDaemons.

Maftask process in Activity Monitor

So, the actual culprit’s name is Mac Auto Fixer, and it’s embodied on the system level as the Maftask process – no wonder some users refer to the latter as the troublemaker. The conspicuously misbehaving application is a mix of a rogue optimization tool and pseudo security software. It pretends to find a bevy of macOS performance issues as well as privacy and malware problems, thus attempting to persuade the victim that purchasing its license is certainly on their to-do list. It boasts sleek GUI design and triggers trustworthy-looking system scans over and over.

The reports enumerate hundreds of items that should supposedly be deleted or fixed at once, including duplicates, unnecessary login items, failed downloads and memory issues. To top it all off, the Maftask virus will state there is too little available space left and urge the user to have memory released in one click.

Mac Auto Fixer – the actual malware

The pseudo scanning activity of Mac Auto Fixer (Maf-task) malware is accompanied by numerous popups that further pressure the user into taking immediate action. The alerts typically mention the number of threats and issues spotted in specific system areas and recommend the victim to sort them all out by registering the full version of the program. The infection can also impact the web surfing facet of Mac usage by rerouting traffic to spoof warning pages. The motivation behind this adverse effect is two-pronged. One the one hand, the threat tries to complement its activity with extra pressure by making the victim visit sites reporting various system performance issues and malware. On the other hand, its operators may want to monetize their foothold in the Mac by generating unique hits to legit search providers, such as Yahoo or Bing, via advertising networks. Long story short, Maftask deploys a great deal of brainwashing to dupe and intimidate the owner of the infected computer into coughing up a registration fee. Therefore, following those annoying prompts is a bad idea because most of the problems are phony and the only real adversary is the alleged Mac performance booster itself.

Another massive surge of Maftask infections after the original outbreak of the Mac Auto Fixer malware took root in early October 2019 and has been a consistently serious concern ever since. According to the victims’ reports, this twist in the dodgy campaign is accompanied by malicious activity of the following processes:

  • hlpradc
  • spchlpr
  • hiprade
  • helperamc
  • helpermcp
  • ummhlpr
  • sspchlpr
  • APMHelper
  • smbstrhlpr
  • MapsAndDirections-1668307
  • ProntoApp
  • WebSocketServerApp
  • FocusReportingService
  • CellularService
  • EasyConverter-955179
  • freeForm-959837
  • macalive
  • tonictasks
  • mohip
  • source.app

Most of the above-mentioned files are executables used by widespread adware apps and counterfeit system cleaners, including Smart Mac Booster, Unpollute My Mac, Mac Cleanup Pro, Mac Ads Cleaner, and Advanced Mac Cleaner. These harmful programs often tailgate into Macs along with Mac Auto Fixer, coming in the same bundle that conceals the opportunistic infections. Therefore, it is important to check your Mac for these dangerous extras in case maftask is on board.

The main symptom is an emergence of popup alerts saying, maftask will damage your computer. You should move it to the Trash”, where the name of the perpetrating executable can be either one of the above-mentioned harmful processes (“[harmful process name] will damage your computer”). By the way, Spchlpr is the name of the binary used by Similar Photo Cleaner, a notorious fake optimization tool for Mac.

Mohlp popup in macOS Catalina 10.15

It’s worth mentioning that all of these incidents have one thing in common: they co-occured with an upgrade to macOS Catalina 10.15, the latest major release of the operating system. These alerts may be a response of the brand-new macOS version to the viruses that ran undetected prior to the installation of Catalina on pre-infected computers. The good news is that Apple appears to be improving the malware identification features of their platform, but the infected users are stuck with the annoying alerts anyway.

The Maftask virus penetrates into a Mac by means of tricky installation clients. Their nasty gist boils down to combining benign apps with harmful ones under a single umbrella. The regular program is the only one clearly indicated in the setup wizard, while the Mac Auto Fixer baddie lurks down in its settings that you have to spend time toggling. In summary, Maftask is a component of a dangerous and obnoxious Mac scareware, so it should be treated accordingly. Continue reading this entry to learn how to remove the pest and scotch its impact at the browser level.


Maftask virus manual removal for Mac

The steps listed below will walk you through the removal of this malicious application. Be sure to follow the instructions in the specified order.

  1. Expand the Go menu in your Mac’s Finder bar and select Utilities as shown below.

    Go to Utilities

  2. Locate the Activity Monitor icon on the Utilities screen and double-click on it.

    Select the Activity Monitor

  3. In the Activity Monitor app, look for maftask or another process that appears suspicious. To narrow down your search, focus on unfamiliar resource-intensive entries on the list. Keep in mind that its name isn’t necessarily related to the way the threat is manifesting itself, so you’ll need to trust your own judgement. If you pinpoint the culprit, select it and click on the Stop icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

    Stop malicious process

  4. When a follow-up dialog pops up asking if you are sure you want to quit the troublemaking process, select the Force Quit option.

    Select the Force Quit option

  5. Click on the Go menu icon in the Finder again and select Go to Folder. You can as well use the Command-Shift-G keyboard shortcut.

    Use the Go to Folder feature

  6. Type /Library/LaunchAgents in the folder search dialog and click on the Go button.

    Open /Library/LaunchAgents folder

  7. Examine the contents of the LaunchAgents folder for dubious-looking items. Be advised that the names of files spawned by malware may give no clear clues that they are malicious, so you should look for recently added entities that appear to deviate from the norm.

    As an illustration, here are several examples of LaunchAgents related to mainstream Mac infections: com.techyutil.maftask.plist, com.techyutil.mafuninstaller.plist, com.pcv.hlpramc.plist, com.updater.mcy.plist, com.avickUpd.plist, and com.msp.agent.plist. If you spot files that don’t belong on the list, go ahead and drag them to the Trash.

    Root-level LaunchAgents folder contents

  8. Use the Go to Folder lookup feature again to navigate to the folder named ~/Library/Application Support (note the tilde symbol prepended to the path).

    Open ~/Library/Application Support folder

  9. When the Application Support directory is opened, identify recently generated suspicious folders in it and send them to the Trash. A quick tip is to look for items whose names have nothing to do with Apple products or apps you knowingly installed. A few examples of known-malicious folder names are Mac Auto Fixer, ProgressSite, and IdeaShared.

    Application Support folder contents

  10. Enter ~/Library/LaunchAgents string (don’t forget to include the tilde character) in the Go to Folder search area.

    Open ~/Library/LaunchAgents directory

  11. The system will display LaunchAgents residing in the current user’s Home directory. Look for dodgy items related to maftask virus (see logic highlighted in subsections above) and drag the suspects to the Trash.

    Contents of LaunchAgents folder in user’s home directory

  12. Type /Library/LaunchDaemons in the Go to Folder search field.

    Go to /Library/LaunchDaemons

  13. In the LaunchDaemons path, try to pinpoint the files the malware is using for persistence. Several examples of such items cropped by Mac infections are com.techyutil.maftask.plist, com.pplauncher.plist, com.startup.plist, and com.ExpertModuleSearchDaemon.plist. Delete the sketchy files immediately.

    LaunchDaemons folder contents

  14. Click on the Go menu icon in your Mac’s Finder and select Applications on the list.

    Go to Applications screen on Mac

  15. Find the entry for MacAutoFixer or another app that clearly doesn’t belong there and move it to the Trash. If this action requires your admin password for confirmation, go ahead and enter it.

    Drag malicious app to the Trash

  16. Expand the Apple menu and select System Preferences.

    Select System Preferences

    Open System Preferences

  17. Proceed to Users & Groups and click on the Login Items tab.

    Proceed to Users & Groups

    The system will display the list of items launched when the computer is starting up. Locate the potentially unwanted app there and click on the “-” (minus) button.

    Delete unwanted login item

  18. Now select Profiles under System Preferences. Look for a malicious item in the left-hand sidebar. Several examples of configuration profiles created by Mac adware include TechSignalSearch, MainSearchPlatform, AdminPrefs, and Chrome Settings. Select the offending entity and click on the minus sign at the bottom to eliminate it.

    Select Profiles under System Preferences

    Remove malicious configuration profile from Mac

    If your Mac has been infiltrated by adware, the infection will most likely continue to hold sway over your default web browser even after you remove the underlying application along with its components sprinkled around the system. Use the browser cleanup instructions below to address the remaining consequences of this attack.

Get rid of Maftask virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Maftask virus should be restored to their default values. Although this will clear most of your customizations, web surfing history, and all temporary data stored by websites, the malicious interference should be terminated likewise. The overview of the steps for completing this procedure is as follows:

  1. Remove Maftask virus from Safari
    • Open the browser and go to Safari menu. Select Preferences in the drop-down list.

      Go to Preferences in Safari

    • Once the Preferences screen appears, click on the Advanced tab and enable the option saying “Show Develop menu in menu bar”.

      Advanced tab under Safari Preferences

    • Now that the Develop entry has been added to the Safari menu, expand it and click on Empty Caches.

      Empty Caches in Safari

    • Now select History in the Safari menu and click on Clear History in the drop-down list.

      Clear history in Safari

    • Safari will display a dialog asking you to specify the period of time this action will apply to. Select all history to ensure a maximum effect. Click on the Clear History button to confirm and exit.

      Select all history to clear

    • Go back to the Safari Preferences and hit the Privacy tab at the top. Find the option that says Manage Website Data and click on it.

      Manage Website Data option under Privacy tab

    • The browser will display a follow-up screen listing the websites that have stored data about your Internet activities. This dialog additionally includes a brief description of what the removal does: you may be logged out of some services and encounter other changes of website behavior after the procedure. If you’re okay with that, go ahead and click on the Remove All button.

      Confirmation dialog

    • Restart Safari
  2. Remove Maftask in Google Chrome
    • Open Chrome, click the Customize and control Google Chrome (⁝) icon in the top right-hand part of the window, and select Settings in the drop-down

      Chrome Settings

    • When on the Settings pane, select Advanced
    • Scroll down to the Reset settings section.

      Reset settings in Chrome on Mac

    • Confirm the Chrome reset on a dialog that will pop up. When the procedure is completed, relaunch the browser and check it for malware activity.

      Here’s how to reset settings in Chrome on Mac

  3. Remove Maftask from Mozilla Firefox
    • Open Firefox and go to Help – Troubleshooting Information (or type about:support in the URL bar and press Enter).

      Open Firefox and go to Help

      Select Troubleshooting Information

    • When on the Troubleshooting Information screen, click on the Refresh Firefox button.

      Refresh Firefox on Mac

    • Confirm the intended changes and restart Firefox.

Use automatic tool to uninstall Maftask virus from your Mac

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove Maftask virus. This technique has substantial benefits over manual cleanup, because the utility gets hourly virus definition updates and can accurately spot even the newest Mac infections.

Furthermore, the automatic solution will find the core files of the malware deep down the system structure, which might otherwise be a challenge to locate. Here’s a walkthrough to sort out the Maftask issue using Combo Cleaner:

  1. Download Combo Cleaner installer. When done, double-click the combocleaner.dmg file and follow the prompts to install the tool onto your Mac.

    Download Combo Cleaner

    By downloading any applications recommended on this website you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. The free scanner checks whether your Mac is infected. To get rid of malware, you need to purchase the Premium version of Combo Cleaner.

  2. Open the app from your Launchpad and let it run the update of malware signature database to make sure it can identify the latest threats.
  3. Click the Start Combo Scan button to check your Mac for malicious activity as well as performance issues.

    Combo Cleaner Mac scan progress

  4. Examine the scan results. If the report says “No Threats”, then you are on the right track with the manual cleaning and can safely proceed to tidy up the web browser that may continue to act up due to the after-effects of the malware attack (see instructions above).

    Combo Cleaner scan report – no threats found

  5. In case Combo Cleaner has detected malicious code, click the Remove Selected Items button and have the utility remove Maftask threat along with any other viruses, PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), or junk files that don’t belong on your Mac.

    Combo Cleaner – threats found

  6. Once you have made doubly sure that the malicious app is uninstalled, the browser-level troubleshooting might still be on your to-do list. If your preferred browser is affected, resort to the previous section of this tutorial to revert to hassle-free web surfing.

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