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Search Snow virus: remove searchsnow.com Safari/Chrome/Firefox redirect from Mac


If incessantly redirected to searchsnow.com, Mac users should apply a malware removal procedure to address the browser hijack and fix the skewed preferences.

Update: September 2020

Threat Profile
Name Searchsnow (Search Snow) browser hijacker
Category Mac adware, redirect virus, PUA
Related Domains searchsnow.com, searchbaron.com, searchmarquis.com, mybrowser-search.com, api.lisumanagerine.club, search.surfharvest.xyz
Symptoms Redirects web browser to Bing, mybrowser-search.com, or Ask.com via searchsnow.com, adds sponsored content to search results, causes system slowdown, resists regular removal
Distribution Techniques Fake Adobe Flash Player update popups, malicious freeware bundles, spam
Severity Level Medium
Damage Unwanted changes of browser preferences, privacy issues due to Internet activity tracking, search redirects, ads above the fold
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.

Years ago, when malicious code targeting macOS was the exception rather than the rule, browser hijackers were already wreaking quite a bit of havoc in this arena. Nowadays, these nasties continue to be the driving force of Mac malware evolution. The so-called Bing redirect virus is sort of a barometer that shows which way the plague is heading and what tricks cybercrooks have up their sleeve. The infection referred to as Searchsnow is the latest addition to the felons’ genre. It is part of a multi-pronged browser redirect stratagem aimed at manipulating user’s web traffic and monetizing it through a fusion of dodgy advertising networks and custom search results returned by a trusted service. This culprit has a prototype, namely the Search Marquis PUA (potentially unwanted application), which has been a top concern for numerous Mac fans over the past few months.

Searchsnow homepage

What are the symptoms of Searchsnow infection?

Just like its notorious “cousin” mentioned above, Searchsnow walks a well-trodden path of modifying one’s browser preferences without due permission. It replaces the default search engine and homepage settings with searchsnow.com URL. This tampering makes itself felt in Safari, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox, depending on the victim’s browser of choice. In the aftermath of these tweaks, the user is confronted with a situation where their entire web search activity is isolated to a service they never opted for. The Searchsnow homepage is a near clone of searchmarquis.com, except that it has a few hyperlinked icons leading to popular e-commerce resources, including Amazon, eBay, and Booking.com.

When an arbitrary search request is run through the unwanted page in question, it hits several dodgy domains shared across the other campaigns that fit the mold of the Bing redirect ruse. Essentially, the attack workflow is a carbon copy of its earlier personas. The only notable difference is the kick-off point of each instance of browser forwarding. Generally, the URLs involved in the process of the unauthorized traffic reorganization are as follows:

  • searchbaron.com;
  • api.lisumanagerine.club;
  • mybrowser-search.com;
  • search.surfharvest.xyz.

In some scenarios, the redirect logic can slightly deviate from the above list. Instead of mybrowser-search.com, the victim may end up on Bing.com hosted search results. Visiting the Ask.com landing page is a far less common, yet possible occurrence. Although the in-between domains show up in the browser’s status bar only for a split second, they play a major role in the criminals’ plan.

Searchsnow redirecting the browser via searchbaron.com

Ultimately, the goal of Searchsnow virus is to convert its nearly full control over a browser on a Mac into profit. Because the traffic travels through a merry-go-round of links, the attack accumulates fraudulent monetization power so that its operators rake in profits at the expense of the users’ peace of mind. Although the final-stage site is typically a legitimate search provider, what matters for the crooks is the series of pages that come before. Whether it’s Google, Bing, or Ask custom search in the end, this is a way to smokescreen the whole foul play and make it look like some trivial twist of the browsing settings.

A frequently reported landing page promoted by searchsnow.com hijacker

How does Searchsnow virus infect a Mac?

As intricate as it is, the Searchsnow threat infiltrates systems by means of a garden-variety distribution method. It’s called bundling. The idea isn’t very elaborate: the harmful payload accompanies an installer for another program. The catch is that its presence is hidden in plain sight. While the user thinks they are about to install a free media converter, an application update, or a video game with all the bells and whistles under the hood, the Searchsnow baddie comes as an extra element of the setup. It can be avoided by taking the custom installation route, but most people don’t bother doing it and just go with the flow, sticking with the “recommended” (“express”) option instead. The infamous Adobe Flash Player update scam pushed by rogue popup ads on junk or hacked sites is one of the dominant techniques depositing Searchsnow virus on macOS computers.

Extraordinary persistence of Searchsnow

This infection hinges upon a peculiar mechanism to stay stubborn on a Mac. Having pulled off the covert installation, it performs command-line manipulations to add a malicious configuration profile. This entity specifies the way the victim’s preferred web browser works. The rogue profile manages, among other things, the default search engine and homepage settings in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. This explains why manually changing these preferences back to their normal values is a no-go. Moreover, the corresponding settings fields can be grayed out and therefore impossible to edit. With that said, eliminating the device profile is a critical prerequisite for successful remediation of the plagued system.


Searchsnow 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 Searchsnow 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 LinkBranch, ProgressMatch, SystemSpecial, 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 Searchsnow 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 Searchsnow (Search Snow) or another 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 Searchsnow 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 searchsnow.com redirects in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Searchsnow 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 Searchsnow virus in 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. Get rid of Searchsnow virus 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 Searchsnow 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 Searchsnow virus using Combo Cleaner removal tool

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