This tutorial covers the prevalent categories of malicious code targeting MacBook Air and includes simple walkthroughs to remove malware from these laptops.
Mac malware is no longer a marginal phenomenon. The good news is, it’s in a somewhat primitive state compared to Windows viruses so far. The bad news, though, is that the macOS ecosystem is an expanding battlefield, where the adversaries from the deep web are quickly getting better at orchestrating their campaigns. MacBook Air laptops are in the crooks’ spotlight due to their popularity with Apple fans, affordable price and, hence, a great number of these machines scattered all over the world. Looking at the present-day security risks these devices are susceptible to, people familiar with Windows malware evolution may reminisce the reign of rogue antispyware from late 2000s. Indeed, counterfeit optimization or security apps are currently gearing up for a rise in the MacBook Air environment.
One of the recent examples of this annoying scareware is the program called Mac Auto Fixer (see screenshot above). It is a segment in a lineage of fake utilities, including the ill-famed Advanced Mac Cleaner and Mac Tonic. The culprit typically infiltrates MacBook Air’s by means of a multi-component installation trick. It means you get infected while installing some free application that goes surreptitiously bundled with one or several extra programs, often potentially unwanted ones. This type of a software setup logic is one of virus deployers’ favorites, so you’re always better off opting out of the default option in the install client and selecting the custom route instead – this way, you’ll at least be able to see what else is being pushed alongside the solution of choice.
When up and running inside a MacBook Air, a rogue AV or cleaning tool pretends to check the system for issues and returns results with dozens or even hundreds of them. This is a tactic aimed at pressuring the victim into removing the purportedly detected problems, which presupposes payment for the “licensed” version of the impostor. Unfortunately, this category of harmful software is on a dramatic rise these days, so you’d better be on the lookout for it.
Another major cluster of malware going after MacBook Air machines is browser hijackers. As the name suggests, their goal is to take control of Safari and user-installed web browsers so that a predefined landing page is visited at random or during certain routine actions of the victim. For example, the deceptive site can show up whenever you open the browser, trigger a new tab in it or perform web search. Technically, the infection replaces one’s Internet navigation preferences, such as the homepage, new tab and search, with a specific URL that’s predefined to display some manipulative information. One of the nastiest hijackers of this kind is one that diverts traffic to a page saying, “Your system is infected with 3 viruses!” It attempts to dupe you into thinking that your laptop is malware-stricken and hitting the ‘Scan Now’ button that leads to another dangerous payload.
There’s one more shade of Mac browser threats that comes down to embedding pesky advertisements into web pages. It’s referred to as adware. These baddies aren’t severe as far as the system-wide impact goes, but the irritation they cause tends to be huge. Ad-injecting viruses flood nearly all web pages you open on a contaminated MacBook Air with numerous popups, pop-unders, coupons, freebies, comparison shopping elements, banners, and in-text links. To top it off, they sort of wrap the visited websites with an invisible virtual coating that, when clicked on with the mouse, invokes scripts triggering full-page interstitial ads. This leads to multiple browser windows opening up behind your back, which in its turn consumes CPU resources you might need for other, benign tasks. Similarly to hijackers, ad viruses usually slither their way into Macs through booby-trapped freeware installs.
Ransomware, in the classic sense, isn’t too much of an issue in the macOS world so far, although it exists and appears to be undergoing tweaks and refinements. The so-called FBI or police viruses aren’t really ransom Trojans, because their adverse effect is isolated to browsers only and the fix is as simple as resetting the browser. A much more harmful example is the KeRanger virus that emerged in March 2016, which actually encrypts personal files on a plagued MacBook Air with asymmetric cipher and drops a ransom note demanding Bitcoins for the RSA decryption key. Although the likes of it never got to massive distribution and their code is typically crude and buggy, blackmail viruses targeting Mac computers are way beyond proof-of-concept nowadays.
No matter what kind of malware might be causing your MacBook Air to act up, you should follow the one-size-fits-all tutorial below to get rid of it and rectify whatever system settings got skewed by the intruder.
Malware removal from MacBook Air (manual way)
This method is applicable if the name of the infection is known, for instance in case it’s a rogue optimization tool or fake antivirus that’s causing issues. The steps listed below will walk you through the removal process. Be sure to follow the instructions in the order specified.
1. Open up the Utilities folder as illustrated below
2. Locate the Activity Monitor icon on the screen and double-click on it
3. Under Activity Monitor, find the entry for the troublemaking app, select it and click Quit Process
4. A dialog should pop up, asking if you are sure you would like to quit the executable. Select the Force Quit option
5. Click the Go button again, but this time select Applications on the list. Find the malicious entry on the interface, right-click on it and select Move to Trash. If user password is required, go ahead and enter it
6. Now go to Apple Menu and pick the System Preferences option
7. Select Accounts and click the Login Items button. macOS will come up with the list of the items that launch when the box is started up. Locate the malware object there and click on the “-“ button
Remove malware from web browsers on MacBook Air
Settings for the web browser that got hit by adware or police Trojan should be restored to their default values. The overview of steps for this procedure in different browsers is as follows:
1. Reset Safari
• Open the browser and go to Safari menu. Select Preferences in the drop-down list
• Once the Preferences screen appears, hit the Privacy tab at the top. Find the option that says Remove All Website Data and click on it
• The system will display a confirmation dialog that also includes a brief description of what the reset does. Specifically, 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 the Remove Now button
• In order to selectively clear data generated by certain websites only, not all of them, hit the Details button under the Privacy section of Safari Preferences
• This feature will list all websites that have stored potentially sensitive data, including cache and cookies. Select the one, or ones, that might be causing trouble and click the appropriate button at the bottom (Remove or Remove All). Click the Done button to exit.
2. Reset Google Chrome
• Open Chrome and click the Customize and Control Google Chrome menu icon
• Select Options for a new window to appear
• Select Under the Hood tab, then click Reset to defaults button
3. Reset Mozilla Firefox
• Open Firefox and select Help – Troubleshooting Information
• On the page that opened, click the Reset Firefox button
Automatic malware removal from MacBook Air
The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove malware 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 malware issue using Combo Cleaner:
- Download Combo Cleaner installer . When done, double-click the combocleaner.dmg file and follow the prompts to install the tool onto your Mac.
- 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.
- Click the Start Combo Scan button to check your Mac for malicious activity as well as performance issues.
- 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).
- In case Combo Cleaner has detected malicious code, click the Remove Selected Items button and have the utility remove malware threat along with any other viruses, PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), or junk files that don’t belong on your Mac.
- 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.