Find out how the Search Pulse virus affects a Mac, what loopholes it exploits to propagate, and how to get rid of the annoying browser redirect activity.
Update: December 2019
Finding relevant information on any subject is a piece of cake these days – all it takes is typing the query in a search engine of choice. Which search engine? It’s a matter of personal preferences, habits and perception of convenience. Sometimes, though, users need to see and compare data returned by different services to get the big picture, and that’s the catch that the authors of Search Pulse app are cashing in on. They boil their marketing down to the following perk: people can visit one page, select a search provider out of three available options there, and get the results on the same page without having to use each service separately.
Sounds nifty, but there is a major pitfall in the implementation of this whole idea. The Search Pulse applet penetrates into Mac computers uninvited and it forcibly gives the browsing settings an overhaul without asking for the admin’s consent about driving traffic to home.searchpulse.net. Normal software doesn’t act this way, which explains why lots of users flag this one as a PUP (potentially unwanted program) or even a virus.
Rather than go the route of an informed decision, the penetration of the Search Pulse virus into a Mac resembles a trespass bypassing the victim’s approval. The most likely technique is based on bundling, a software distribution practice that promotes a package of applications as an appendage to the one the user is aware of. In plain words, harmful entities may accompany benign programs during installation in such a way that the targeted person stays clueless about the stratagem until the culprit shows its fangs. This is exactly what happens in the Search Pulse intrusion scenario. Thankfully, it’s a no-brainer to avoid this infection vector – just choosing “Custom” in the install options will allow for exploring the bundle and deselecting the unwanted items. But, most Mac users go with the flow and never peek beyond the default setup, only to get infected and deal with the consequences.
When inside, the Search Pulse virus instantly modifies the browser configuration so that the traffic is repeatedly forwarded to home.searchpulse.net, or less often to search.searchpulse.net. In most cases, the pest replaces the admin’s homepage, search engine and new tab settings with the above value. As a result, Safari, Chrome and Firefox will be redirected to the rogue landing page over and over. The site itself has minimalist design. It contains a search bar with the search engine select dropdown next to it, allowing the visitor to choose from Google, Yahoo, and Bing. There’s additionally a current time widget at the top and an option at the bottom for setting a different background. The general impression from the service might be okay, but the very “peculiar” way Search Pulse spreads is a giveaway.
This threat has gained notoriety for its stubborn behavior. Normally, if a Mac user wants to change their browsing defaults, all it takes is going to the settings and selecting the preferred service from a list or typing in the correct URL. In the case of the Search Pulse virus, things are way more complicated than that. It configures the affected browser to resolve a rogue site once launched and also whenever the victim opens a new tab. Strangely enough, the unwanted setting isn’t searchpulse.net proper. Instead, it’s usually lkysearchds1122-a.akamaihd.net or similar-looking domain, with the address being followed by a long string of alphanumeric campaign IDs. The dodgy attributes constituting this site’s URL invoke a further redirect to search.searchpulse.net, and from there to Yahoo most of the time.
The above-mentioned persistence of this whole misconfiguration is all about the fact that the appropriate settings fields are grayed out and inactive, and therefore the victim cannot replace them with the right values easily. This is an outcome of a whole separate vector of Search Pulse’s tactic. It creates a new user profile in the host Mac without asking for the admin’s approval, which allows the pest to impose arbitrary system parameters while providing no simple way to override them. It’s also noteworthy that the attack is accompanied by a peculiar malicious process running in the background. This executable is visible in the Activity Monitor. In many recent cases, it’s called “productevent”. Therefore, to start the fix it’s necessary to terminate this process so that it doesn’t interfere with the subsequent cleaning steps.
To top it off, the app may collect personally identifiable information about the victims and their Macs, such as visited sites, searches made, IP addresses, and other sensitive data. Unscrupulous vendors tend to retain such details and sell them to advertisers or cybercrooks. Obviously, Search Pulse doesn’t belong inside a Mac unless it was wittingly installed, which is hardly ever the case. So, if redirects to home.searchpulse.net or search.searchpulse.net are giving you a hard time, be sure to follow the steps below and remove the infection.
Search Pulse redirect 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 order specified.
- Open up the Utilities folder as shown below
- Locate the Activity Monitor icon on the screen and double-click on it
- Under Activity Monitor, find a process named Search Pulse or Search Pulse 1.0 or productevent, select it and click Quit Process
- A dialog should pop up, asking if you are sure you would like to quit the troublemaking process. Select the Force Quit option
- Click the Go button again, but this time select Applications on the list. Find Search Pulse (Search Pulse 1.0) entry on the interface, right-click on it and select Move to Trash. If user password is required, go ahead and enter it
- Now go to Apple Menu and pick the System Preferences option
- Select Accounts and click the Login Items button. The system will come up with the list of the items that launch when the computer is started up. Locate the potentially unwanted app there and click on the “-“ button
Get rid of home.searchpulse.net redirect virus in web browser on Mac
To begin with, settings for the web browser that got hit by Search Pulse should be restored to their default values. The overview of steps for this procedure is as follows:
- 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.
- Open the browser and go to Safari menu. Select Preferences in the drop-down list
- Reset Google Chrome
- Open Chrome, click the More (⁝) icon in the top right-hand part of the window, and select Settings in the drop-down
- When on the Settings pane, select Advanced
- Scroll down to the Reset settings section. Under the Restore settings to their original defaults option, click the Reset settings button
- 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.
- Reset Mozilla Firefox
- Open Firefox and select Help – Troubleshooting Information
- On the page that opened, click the Reset Firefox button
Get rid of Search Pulse virus using Freshmac removal tool
When confronted with malicious code like the Search Pulse redirect virus on Mac, you can neutralize its toxic impact by leveraging a specially crafted system utility. The Freshmac application (read review) is a perfect match for this purpose as it delivers essential security features along with must-have modules for Mac optimization.
This tool cleans unneeded applications and persistent malware in one click. It also protects your privacy by eliminating tracking cookies, frees up disk space, and manages startup apps to decrease boot time. On top of that, it boasts 24/7 tech support. The following steps will walk you through automatic removal of the Search Pulse infection from Mac.
- Download Freshmac installer onto your machine. Double-click the Freshmac.pkg file to trigger the installer window, select the destination disk and click Continue. The system will display a dialog asking for your password to authorize the setup. Type the password and click Install Software
- Once the installation has been completed, Freshmac will automatically start a scan consisting of 5 steps. It scans cache, logs, unused languages, trash, and checks the Mac for privacy issues.
- The scan report will then display your current system health status and the number of issues detected for each of the above categories. Click the Fix Safely button to remove junk files and address privacy issues spotted during the scan.
- Check whether the home.searchpulse.net redirect problem has been fixed. If it perseveres, go to the Uninstaller option on Freshmac GUI. Locate an entry that appears suspicious, select it and click Fix Safely button to force-uninstall the unwanted application.
- Go to Temp and Startup Apps panes on the interface and have all redundant or suspicious items eliminated as well. The Search Pulse redirect virus shouldn’t be causing any further trouble.