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Remove MacKeeper popup from Mac (Safari, Chrome, Firefox)

Read this entry to stay on top of the MacKeeper popup issue, learn the mechanics of this hoax, and apply an effective and relevant virus removal technique.

Update: March 2023

There are various reasons why people prefer Macs over machines made by other manufacturers. One of them is the exceptional quality of the hardware and customer experience overall. Many users try to stay in vogue that way. A lot of Apple fans choose these products because of the outstanding security of the operating system. Unfortunately, the latter perspective is being undermined by a growing number of potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) that have heavily inundated the macOS ecosystem.

This holds true for the app called MacKeeper, which is a scareware sample disruptive and prolific enough to turn a part of the above mindset into an empty concept. This strain has got a notorious background that started up from a promising combo of performance booster and AV tool, with the reputation taking a nosedive after highly aggressive intimidation techniques took effect. This negative evolution, or rather degradation, has been accompanied by MacKeeper popups all the way.

Fake MacKeeper pop-up reporting junk files

Let’s look into this social engineering element of the sketchy program’s modus operandi. The popup activity by MacKeeper can be system-wide. No matter what app is currently opened, and even if it’s just the desktop that the user is on, the culprit might display an alert saying, “Clean up your Mac after visiting risky sites”. To make the whole deceit a bit more persuasive, the fake warning also shows the victim’s version of OS X or macOS, plus the country they are in. It goes on to say that a slew of junk files are hogging on the machine, and these items should be removed immediately otherwise they will slow down the system and take up a great deal of disk space.

A follow-up dialog will also appear, reading, “Please consider cleaning your Mac from junk”. There is a download button at the bottom that leads to MacKeeper. If the user falls for this trick, the rogue application will take a firmer grip on the system and generate fake scans one after another.

Another variant of the MacKeeper pop-up

As opposed to the above scenario, MacKeeper popups can be isolated to a web browser. While some people would think that’s the lesser of two evils, this is probably a misconception. Owning a computer doesn’t make much sense without web surfing, so this type of ads is an equally bad nuisance. One of the common forms of these alerts raises a pseudo red flag on viruses called Tapsnake, CronDNS, and Dubfishicv, which have been allegedly detected on the Mac. The pop up puts some extra pressure on the user by saying, “Your Mac is heavily damaged!” and emphasizes that the risk stemming from these threats is extremely high. Of course, this guile is complemented by a persistent recommendation to download and install MacKeeper and thereby allegedly get the issue fixed.

‘Your system is infected with 3 viruses’ alert pushing MacKeeper scareware

One more type of browser-borne phony warnings promoting the unwelcome software revolves around a spoof notification that goes, “Your Mac is infected with 3 viruses!” This campaign is so prevalent that the wording of the alert proper has become a buzz phrase. Unlike the Tapsnake scheme, though, no specific names of infections are indicated there. The offending artifice boils down to a statement that traces of 2 malware and 1 phishing/spyware items have been spotted on the computer. To instill trust, the pop up pretends to be from AppleCare Products or AppleCare Protection Plan. To top it off, a script runs on the page and reflects the amount of time left “before the damage is permanent”. Again, the victim is lured into clicking the Scan Now button, which points to MacKeeper or similar scareware from the same lineage. It’s also worth mentioning that this fake warning can be used in tandem with the Tapsnake fraud. In this case, it serves as the primary alert, and if the victim clicks “Scan Now” they are forwarded to the “Download required!” landing page listing the 3 imaginary threats.

It’s important to understand that the very fact of these pop-ups invading a Mac is a signal of malware presence on the computer. It could be a browser hijacker or adware that’s part of the ramified MacKeeper promotion wave. If the bogus warnings appear beyond the browser, the issue might be more serious and denote that the scareware is already on board and is now attempting to brainwash the victim into paying for its license. Either way, the problem won’t vanish on its own unless a fix is applied. Speaking of which, the sections below will guide you through.

MacKeeper popup 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 MacKeeper 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.mackeeper.MacKeeper.Helper.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 MacKeeper, 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 MacKeeper popup 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.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 MacKeeper 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 MacKeeper popups in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the MacKeeper popup 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 MacKeeper popups 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 MacKeeper popup virus 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 MacKeeper popup alerts 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.

Get rid of MacKeeper pop-up virus using Combo Cleaner automatic removal tool

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove the MacKeeper pop up alert 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 the MacKeeper pop up alert 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 an update of the 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 the MacKeeper pop up alert 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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