Learn what kind of a Mac threat lkysearch is, what methods it uses to infiltrate systems, how it manifests itself, and what to do to get rid of it for good.
Update: March 2020
It doesn’t necessarily take a seasoned detective to notice the ties between different cybercrime campaigns doing the rounds concurrently. There are sometimes common denominators hiding in plain sight, such as the lkysearch browser redirect issue. It isn’t an independent infection per se, although the victims often refer to it as a virus. This mild misconception is unsurprising, given the heap of problems the infected users come across. Let’s try to dot the i’s and cross the t’s: the above sequence of characters is just a fragment of a domain name Mac users can see in their browsers when confronted with a redirect trap. What causes these redirects? There are several malicious entities that are known to do it. One of them is a prolific strain spawning adware apps that are clones of each other except that their names are different. A few examples of the recently released knockoffs hailing from this source are FormList, PhaseSearch, and DiscoveryEngine. There are dozens more in circulation, actually.
All the sketchy programs representing this particular lineage have a few similarities visible with the naked eye. First off, it’s the green icon cocooning a pictogram of a magnifier. Also, once the original contamination has taken place, the pests tend to be superseded by lookalikes titled differently. This rotation occurs without any action on the user’s end, indicating that the adware is potent enough to download and install other software from its Command and Control server. When executed on a Mac, the unwanted code adds an extension to the victim’s default web browser in order to set a traffic rerouting nuisance in motion. Guess what the landing page is? Its URL most likely appears in the following format: lkysearchds[random digits]-a.akamaihd.net or lkysearchex[random digits]-a.akamaihd.net, where the variable component in brackets consists of four or five digits and the string can be concatenated with a long sequence of hexadecimal characters. A real-world example is lkysearchds5012-a.akamaihd.net.
On a side note, there is a malvertising menace referred to as a-akamaihd.net popup virus. Adware makers have been plaguing Macs with it for years. The unsafe domains involved in this attack vector last for so long because they are hosted at a reputable U.S. based content delivery network. That being said, it looks like the lkysearch pest is an element of this long-running browser hijack wave. Zooming back into the “green icon” adware issue, the unwanted app tweaks the user’s browsing preferences and forward the traffic to lkysearch first and then to Yahoo. The dodgy workflow takes a mere fraction of a second, so it’s hard to observe what’s in between the original malicious site and the trusted search provider mentioned above. It turns out that the browsing route actually passes through one or several advertising networks along the way, which means the crooks earn a commission for such hits.
As of March 2020, the above-mentioned lkysearchds variant of this adware came to the fore. It still operates in tandem with the Akamaihd.net hoax and leverages a notorious trick to maintain persistence inside a Mac. Specifically, the attack involves a configuration profile visible under Users & Groups. This system-side interference leads to a situation where the rogue device profile takes over a number of settings, including the homepage, new tab page, and default search engine in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. The problem is that the unwanted replacement URL, such as lkysearchds7974-a.akamaihd.net, cannot be modified manually through the browser settings interface. Below is an example of this fraudulently “hard-coded” value in Safari. The homepage field isn’t clickable and therefore cannot be changed to its normal state until the core infection is eradicated.
As if this overlapping of different shady campaigns weren’t enough, there is yet another security issue in the poisonous cocktail. It’s called the Search Pulse Mac virus. This stubborn infection takes over the user’s default browser and recurrently redirects it to home.searchpulse.net. Interestingly, the logic of this manipulation is to replace one’s custom Internet settings with a URL whose core components are, again, lkysearchds and a.akamaihd.net. All in all, the security issue in question has a number of manifestations, demonstrating that ostensibly unrelated malware predicaments can have common roots and be run by the same criminals. If a web page with lkysearch string in it keeps appearing in a browser’s address bar on your Mac, adhere to the following instructions to address the hassle. Keep in mind that the underlying harmful program may create a configuration profile called MainSearchPlatform or similar. Eliminating it from System Preferences is an important part of getting around the persistence mechanisms utilized by the unwanted app.
Lkysearch 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 suspicious-looking process, 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 the adware on the interface (could be an app with a round green icon), 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 box is started up. Locate MainSearchPlatform or other potentially unwanted object there and click on the “-“ button
Get rid of lkysearch redirect activity and ads in web browser on Mac
To begin with, settings for the web browser that got hit by this virus 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 lkysearch using Combo Cleaner removal tool
The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove Lkysearch 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 Lkysearch 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 Lkysearch 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.