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How to remove SearchMine virus from Safari, Chrome, Firefox on Mac


Learn how to remove SearchMine malware from Mac and thereby prevent Safari, Chrome and Firefox from being redirected to searchmine.net rogue site.

Update: September 2020

Threat Profile
Name SearchMine (SearchMine.net) browser hijacker
Category Mac browser hijacker, redirect virus, Mac adware
Related domains Searchmine.net, Opti-page.com, Webcrawler.com
Detection Avast: MacOS:Agent-EN [Drp], BitDefender: Adware.MAC.Bundlore.DMM, Emsisoft: Adware.MAC.Bundlore.DMM (B), F-Secure: Adware.ADWARE/OSX.Bnodlero, McAfee: RDN/Generic.osx, Sophos AV: Bundlore (PUA)
Symptoms Redirects web browser to SearchMine.net, adds sponsored content to search results, causes system slowdown, resists regular removal, adds a rogue enterprise policy in Google Chrome
Distribution Techniques Fake Adobe Flash Player update popups, freeware bundles, spam
Severity Level Medium
Damage Unwanted changes of custom browsing settings, privacy issues due to Internet activity tracking, search redirects, redundant 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.

What is SearchMine “Smart Search”?

When it comes to one’s online experience, it’s hard to think of a greater nuisance than a browser hijack that gives the web preferences an overhaul without the victim’s consent. The issue is big regardless of the operating system and it has been that way for years, but the macOS territory is currently a rapidly expanding battlefield in this regard. What does it mean to be hit by a piece of browser-twisting malware such as SearchMine? The most conspicuous impact is all about redirects. The culprit keeps on forwarding an ambushed Mac user’s Internet traffic to its landing page at searchmine.net. This activity isn’t haphazard, though, as it follows a fairly strict pattern. The victim’s default browser – be it Safari, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox – undergoes unauthorized manipulation resulting in the custom settings being replaced with a new value.

SearchMine malware forwards web traffic to its landing page on a Mac

Persistence techniques used by SearchMine

This attack has one more revolting facet that makes the pest a moving target. Let’s say Chrome on a Mac is being redirected to searchmine.net. In addition to tweaking the browser preferences, the malware sets a Chrome enterprise policy that overrides the admin’s settings and disallows changes that the victim may attempt to make in a regular way. Each try will be accompanied by a message saying that the browser is “Managed by your organization”, when it’s actually not. Incidentally, group policies are an indispensable instrument in the toolkit of enterprise network administrators. They allow an organization to specify browser settings and restrictions so that employees don’t download potentially harmful files or visit sites they aren’t supposed to. This adjustment of system behavior isn’t only the prerogative of admins, but it’s also doable by third-party software. Obviously, SearchMine operators have found a way to repurpose enterprise policies for persistence of their malicious application.

In the upshot, the browser forwarding loop is there to stay until the sketchy policy is removed. A telltale symptom of this tampering is that the homepage, new tab, and default search provider settings may become unresponsive and grayed out to keep the infected person from remediating them by hand. To add insult to injury, the pest may add a rogue device profile to enforce one more layer of persistence. The examples of these configuration profiles include:

  • AdminPrefs;
  • Safari Settings;
  • Chrome Settings.

The enterprise policy trick and interference at the level of system preferences make SearchMine a really stubborn malware that requires the victims to think outside the box.

Affiliated rogue sites

The landing page, searchmine.net, might appear to fit the mold of a garden-variety search provider. It contains a keyword entry bar and a few links underneath it that lead to popular services, namely Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and AliExpress. However, this ostensible mundanity turns out to conceal a serious pitfall. If you input an arbitrary query, the site will return opti-page.com or webcrawler.com which, in turn, displays questionably accurate results that may forward you to other malicious web pages with virus downloads lurking on them.

In many cases, the landing pages are valid Yahoo Search results but the route towards this ostensibly safe destination is riddled with dubious URLs and controversial advertising networks. For instance, the rogue web resources frequently observed in the browser’s status bar during the redirect are different knockoffs of the a-akamaihd.net domain, which is part of a cloud and content delivery service heavily mishandled by Mac adware makers.

Web searches are forwarded to webcrawler.com or other junk services

Since August 2020, SearchMine operators have been increasingly forwarding victims’ web traffic to Bing. These redirects are backed by auxiliary services such as searchmarquis.com or searchbaron.com, which can be noticed in an affected browser’s status bar for a split second before the landing page is hit.

SearchMine virus distribution

As far as the distribution of the SearchMine Mac virus goes, everything fits the mold of a commonplace adware campaign. The ne’er-do-wells chose to stick with the old school bundling mechanism to deposit the nasty payload onto systems. The installer for this malicious item constitutes fishy setup clients that are allegedly intended to make the process of installing some nifty software seamless. The worst part is that the hoax hides in plain sight, being part of the “express” setup option that most people never deselect. This covertness, paired with numerous Mac users’ affinity with freebies, such as apps available on unofficial sources, explains why the malware under scrutiny is increasingly prolific.

Scareware tailgating into Macs along with SearchMine virus

Yet another infection vector engages what’s called “malvertising”. This stratagem involves misleading popup ads shown online that say Adobe Flash Player is out of date. If the unsuspecting user decides to apply the purported update, though, the SearchMine malware will be installed instead. To top it off, there might be a potentially unwanted follow-up application in this package, such as a Mac Cleanup Pro or Quick Mac Booster fake system utility that leverages a scare tactic to hoodwink people into buying its license. Another commonly reported pest that may accompany this browser hijacker is Media Downloader, a known adware program that claims to allow users to download streaming videos but ends up inundating web pages with annoying ads.

As if these cross-promoted entities weren’t enough to diminish the user experience, the virus-riddled Flash Player bundle often also includes MyCouponsmart adware. This dubious app injects redundant ads into the visited websites while pretending to be a tool that delivers a better e-shopping experience. A recap of this shady distribution is as follows: SearchMine virus hardly ever arrives at Macs on its own. If it’s in, then it makes sense looking for and deleting more threats that probably infiltrated the system as well.

Privacy risks

Here’s one more thing to consider: the victims are so baffled by the conspicuous aftermath of this attack that they fail to notice a more subtle, yet unnerving, side effect. Both the adware in question and the accompanying threats get their privileges on a Mac computer escalated to such an extent that there is no obstacle for them to collect sensitive online data. The private information at risk includes browsing history, web searches, and even keystrokes made to sign into personal accounts. According to malware analysts’ findings unearthed in April 2020, SearchMine also amasses such details as the macOS and browser version, the list of installed applications, the current build of Apple’s proprietary Malware Removal Tool (MRT), as well as a summary of LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons on a Mac. The infection then exfiltrates this information to a remote server so that it can be mishandled for identity theft and future malware attacks. Although eclipsed by the super-annoying browser redirects, this activity can entail serious privacy encroachment issues down the road.

How to avoid SearchMine virus?

One of the key lessons to learn from the distribution practices employed by SearchMine virus authors is that application bundles are a potential source of malware infections, especially if they look too good to be true or if their promotion is laced with an element of pressure and urgency. Avoiding security issues in such scenarios is a matter of taking a deeper dive into the installer’s structure beyond the default mode so that the extra apps are revealed and can be unchecked. Additionally, Mac users should finally start ignoring popups that tout those fake Flash Player updates on dubious websites. No matter how exactly the redirect virus in question has made its way into a Mac, it is undoubtedly subject to removal otherwise the web browsing routine will continue to be a mess. The part below is a one-stop walkthrough to get rid of SearchMine malware.


SearchMine 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 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 SearchMine (Search Mine) 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.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 Quick Mac Booster, IdeaShared, and ProgressMatch.

    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 SearchMine 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 the entry for an 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 SearchMine or another 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 SearchMine virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the SearchMine 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 SearchMine 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 SearchMine 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 SearchMine 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 SearchMine malware using Combo Cleaner removal tool

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove SearchMine 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 SearchMine 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 SearchMine 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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