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How to remove Searchlee virus from Mac

Searchlee Mac virus removal is a priority to users who unknowingly installed it as part of a dubious bundle, so here is how to defeat the stubborn nuisance.

Threat Profile
Name Searchlee browser hijacker
Category Mac adware, redirect virus, PUA
Related Domains,,
Symptoms Redirects web browser via, adds sponsored content to search results, causes system slowdown, resists regular removal
Distribution Techniques Fake Adobe Flash Player update / uninstaller popups, booby-trapped bundles, spam
Severity Level Medium
Damage Unwanted changes of browser preferences, privacy issues due to Internet activity tracking, man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, 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.

Adware is the name of the game in the Mac threat territory. It denotes a broad cluster of malicious apps that act on users’ nerves by forwarding their browsers to unsolicited sites in a forcible way. However, the Searchlee threat demonstrates that the annoying symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to rerouting Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox to for no obvious reason, it keeps tabs on the victim’s online activity and sets a few fraud schemes in motion. This browser hijacker hails from an infamous sewage of Mac malware populated by long-running pests like Safe Finder. Developed by a controversial company called Linkury, these bugs are a pivot of a massive malvertising scheme that reorganizes and monetizes users’ web traffic as if it were some second-hand merchandise in a flea market.

Mac browser hijack promoting

How does Searchlee get on a Mac?

The attack follows a classic infection logic. The harmful payload sneaks into a Mac when the user is installing something unrelated. The catch is all about bundling, a mainstream software distribution method that can be weaponized to cross-promote shadowy applications alongside popular benign utilities. Until recently, the central element of most of these schemes was the Flash Player update hoax, in which sketchy pop-ups would instruct users to install the latest version of this product for hassle-free web surfing.

Now that Adobe has discontinued supporting their well-known brainchild, crooks are switching to scams that spread the likes of Searchlee under the guise of malware cleaners pushed via specially crafted landing pages. Another entry point involves pirated app versions whose installers hide the dodgy item in plain sight, that is to say, within the default setup option most people are okay with.

Searchlee returns irrelevant search results

Searchlee virus symptoms

Once the aggressive code crops up in a system, it sprinkles its files across a series of folders, including LaunchAgents and Application Support in the macOS Library path. The more exotic locations parasitized by the baddie are /private/var/ and /private/tmp. A particularly serious component of Searchlee’s persistence boils down to abusing the Terminal command-line tool to create a configuration profile. This entity is liable for establishing persistence system-wide and configuring the web browsers in line with the fraudulent traffic redistribution campaign. The homepage, search engine, and new tab defaults are replaced with so that the victim keeps visiting the site during their Internet sessions.

Offensive device profile added by Searchlee

When a search is entered, the service returns questionably accurate results aligned with Searchlee authors’ dirty advertising practices. In some cases, the resulting site is or Yahoo Hosted Search (YHS) results. Either way, the crooks make the ensnared browser hit a number of ad networks to bolster their profit-making shenanigans. A good deal of the foul play happens inconspicuously, with the in-between URLs being resolved for a split second.

The redirect game is only a fraction of the malicious actors’ plan, though. The code underlying the Searchlee infection additionally collects the victim’s data in the background. This information spans system and hardware details that can be uniquely attributed to the user, plus it includes Internet history, bookmarks, and account credentials. This vector of the raid is much like a man-in-the-middle attack as it causes sensitive info to be intercepted and sent to the perpetrators. Yet another facet of the incursion is the emergence of alerts saying that a random-named entity wants access to control Safari.

Although the Searchlee virus is a tough one in terms of eradication, a tried-and-tested cleaning procedure can do the trick. Importantly, be sure to get rid of the evil configuration profile otherwise the infection will shortly return even if all the other files are spotted and deleted. To avoid issues like this down the road, never click pop-ups on websites stating that something is out of date or claiming to have found viruses. Also, always check if app installers have extra elements inside.

Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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. The object known to be related to Safe Finder virus is called com.ExpertModuleSearch.plist. 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 Searchlee, 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 Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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 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 SmartSignalSearch, 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 Searchlee virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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 Safe Finder virus using Combo Cleaner automatic removal tool

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove Searchlee 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 Searchlee 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 an update of the 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 Searchlee 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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