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How to remove SearchBaron.com virus from Mac

How to remove SearchBaron.com virus from Mac


Search Baron virus Mac is a nuisance that diminishes the victim’s browsing experience by redirecting the traffic to Bing, so it is subject to urgent removal.

Update: September 2020

Threat Profile
Name Search Baron (SearchBaron.com) browser hijacker
Category Browser hijacker, redirect virus, Mac adware
IP 151.139.128.10, 13.32.255.71, 204.11.56.48
Related Domains searchmarquis.com, hut.brdtxhea.xyz, mybrowser-search.com
Detection Avast: MacOS:MaxOfferDeal-I [Adw], BitDefender: Adware.MAC.Genieo.WS, ESET: A Variant Of OSX/Adware.MaxOfferDeal.N, McAfee: RDN/Generic.osx, Microsoft: Trojan:Win32/Bitrep.A, Sophos: Generic PUA PB (PUA), Symantec: OSX.Trojan.Gen
Symptoms Redirects web browser to SearchBaron.com or Bing.com, adds sponsored content to search results, causes system slowdown
Distribution Freeware bundles, torrents, booby-trapped software updates, misleading popup ads, 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.

Out of all forms of malicious activity targeting Macs, a browser hijack is one of the most annoying occurrences. It results in the web surfing preferences suddenly slipping out of the user’s control, which entails forcible forwarding of the traffic to unwanted sites. Although this kind of an attack isn’t categorized as severe, it is hugely irritating and requires some thorough cleanup. Few infections from this cluster ever reach the distribution heights that the recently discovered Search Baron virus can boast. It has infiltrated numerous Mac computers over the past few days and caused some major ripples in the security circles. The pest manifests itself by taking over the custom Internet navigation settings to redistribute the victim’s web traffic. When the plagued user tries to visit a random site, the infection first forwards them to searchbaron.com, and then redirects to bing.com.

Starting point of a browser redirect caused by Search Baron virus Mac

Inner workings of the Search Baron campaign

At first blush, the logic of this attack doesn’t make much sense. Why give a Mac user’s online preferences an overhaul and then take them to Bing, a legit search engine? The motivation of this shady campaign’s operators is more subtle than it may appear, though. Every time the redirect takes place, it follows a complex path involving in-between domains, such as the known-malicious searchnewworld.com site or pages hosted at AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform. A frequently reported example of the latter is searchroute-1560352588.us-west-2.elb.amazonaws.com. By the way, the use of reputable cloud networks for parking fishy web resources is a way for the cybercriminals to evade blacklisting. These sites aren’t noticeably displayed in the browser along the way, but technically, they are visited as part of the rerouting.

An extra byproduct of the Search Baron browser hijacking wave is that new malicious domains are being added to its operators’ genre down the line. One of the examples in active rotation is the hut.brdtxhea.xyz URL. Specifically, the full string is hut.brdtxhea.xyz/api/rolbng/ffind. Another shift that took place almost a year after the campaign originally exploded into the wild is that the range of cross-promoted entities has been complemented with mybrowser-search.com. This is a bogus service that relies on custom search results outsourced to another engine without providing any value of its own. The architects of this overarching scheme have built a complex network of dubious resources that keeps expanding. The malefactors are thereby driving traffic to specific pages while making it look like the only resolved site is bing.com. This trick isn’t new, but it keeps fueling the sketchy business model based on intercepting traffic for monetization purposes.

Personal data harvesting hidden in plain sight

Search Baron browser hijack is so pesky that it overshadows another undesirable quirk of the underlying malicious app. When running on a Mac, the virus additionally keeps tabs on the victim’s online activities. It silently monitors what sites are visited and what search queries are entered. On top of that, the infection may zero in on sensitive credentials that the user types to log into their personal web accounts, including e-banking, email, and cloud services. By compiling all these details, the cybercriminals behind Search Baron can form a verbose profile of the unsuspecting target and abuse this information to carry out identity theft and trustworthy-looking phishing stratagems. Chances are that the data will be sold to other threat actors, such as disreputable advertisers or high-profile hacking groups.

Distribution tricks

The common entry point for the Search Baron virus incursion is bundling. This is a long-running hoax that lulls people into installing malicious programs. Some eye-catching and usually free apps promoted at various uncertified software portals are at the core of this scheme, making the users think they are lucky to get such a nifty tool at zero cost. However, the installation client may turn out to have extra items under the hood, although there are typically no mentions of this fact. As a result, the to-be prey goes ahead and clicks through the setup wizard’s panes, only to additionally install the potentially unwanted application. Mac users should finally learn the lesson: opt out of the default setup mode when installing freeware and check for unwelcome complementary objects. Reading the fine print can sometimes make one’s day, really.

One of the intermediate domains involved in Search Baron browser redirect scheme


Search Baron 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 a 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 UtilityParze, 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 Search Baron redirect 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 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.

The web browsing snafu

When up and running inside a Mac, the Search Baron virus gets itself added to the login items for persistence. It also alters the settings of the admin’s preferred browser, making the search provider and homepage default to searchbaron.com. Incidentally, the URL has a tail that denotes a specific malvertising sub-campaign. For instance, the string can be something like searchbaron.com/v1/hostedsearch. The adversely revamped set-ups in Safari, Chrome or Firefox will be repeatedly taking effect each time the victim tries to select the right services manually, because there is a malicious plugin configured to make those undesired changes over and over. One more element of persistence is that the infection adds a new administrative profile listed under System Preferences. This dodgy entity hampers the cleanup process by enforcing specific behavior of the affected web browser, including its default settings. It means that the repair is a matter of removing the Search Baron virus proper, including its components meant for privilege escalation and obstinacy effects on the Mac, and then re-adjusting the affected web browser. The walkthroughs below cover what needs to be done.


Get rid of Search Baron malware using Combo Cleaner removal tool

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