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: February 2024
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 Also, once the original contamination has taken place, the pests tend to be superseded by lookalikes titled differently.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. A complete list of the URL variants involved in this campaign is as follows:
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 April 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 specified order.
- Expand the Go menu in your Mac’s Finder bar and select Utilities as shown below.
- Locate the Activity Monitor icon on the Utilities screen and double-click on it.
- 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.
- When a follow-up dialog pops up asking if you are sure you want to quit the troublemaking process, select the Force Quit option.
- 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.
- Type /Library/LaunchAgents in the folder search dialog and click on the Go button.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 IdeaShared, ForwardOpen and ExtraBrowser.
- Enter ~/Library/LaunchAgents string (don’t forget to include the tilde character) in the Go to Folder search area.
- The system will display LaunchAgents residing in the current user’s Home directory. Look for dodgy items related to Lkysearch virus (see logic highlighted in subsections above) and drag the suspects to the Trash.
- Type /Library/LaunchDaemons in the Go to Folder search field.
- 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.
- Click on the Go menu icon in your Mac’s Finder and select Applications on the list.
- 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.
- Expand the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
- Proceed to Users & Groups and click on the Login Items tab. 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.
- 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.
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 Lkysearch virus in web browser on Mac
To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Lkysearch 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:
- Remove Lkysearch virus from Safari
- Open the browser and go to Safari menu. Select Preferences in the drop-down list.
- Once the Preferences screen appears, click on the Advanced tab and enable the option saying “Show Develop menu in menu bar”.
- Now that the Develop entry has been added to the Safari menu, expand it and click on Empty Caches.
- Now select History in the Safari menu and click on Clear History in the drop-down list.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Restart Safari
- Remove Lkysearch 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
- When on the Settings pane, select Advanced
- Scroll down to the Reset settings section.
- 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.
- Remove Lkysearch from Mozilla Firefox
- Open Firefox and go to Help – Troubleshooting Information (or type about:support in the URL bar and press Enter).
- When on the Troubleshooting Information screen, click on the Refresh Firefox button.
- Confirm the intended changes and restart Firefox.
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 an update of the 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.