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Remove ExtensionInstallForcelist Chrome policy added by Mac malware

Learn how to get rid of ExtensionInstallForcelist Google Chrome policy on Mac that allows cybercriminals to riddle the browser with malicious extensions.

Threat Profile
Name ExtensionInstallForcelist
Category Rogue Chrome policy, Mac adware, redirect virus
Symptoms Malicious extensions forcibly installed in Google Chrome on Mac, browser redirecting to unwanted sites, annoying ads in Chrome
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.

What is ExtensionInstallForcelist Google Chrome policy?

The popularity of Google Chrome among Mac users is a double-edged sword. While luring a huge and steadily growing community of fans, the browser is a juicy target for threat actors who are looking for ways to extend their reach. It comes as no surprise that reorganizing Chrome settings is at the top of Mac adware makers’ checklist. All prevalent types of search hijackers out there affect this browser, along with Safari and Mozilla Firefox, by tweaking user-defined preferences without permission. Search Marquis, Search Baron, Safe Finder, TapuFind, ChillTAB, and many more nasties that fall under the vast categories of the Yahoo and Bing redirect viruses sucker-punch Chrome as part of their activity. In many cases, the attack is accompanied by a symptom that plays a major role in terms of malware persistence but stays hidden in plain sight. It’s the emergence of a new Chrome policy called ExtensionInstallForcelist that the victim never agreed to install.

ExtensionInstallForcelist malware-added policy in Chrome on Mac

This quirk is only visible when an infected user enters “chrome://policy” in the URL bar and hits Enter to open the Policies page. The ExtensionInstallForcelist entry is displayed with a value that seems gibberish at first blush but explains a lot about the logic of the exploitation. The string of random-looking characters corresponds to the ID of a browser extension that’s allowed to be embedded in Chrome without any action on the user’s part. This attribute is sometimes followed by a URL from which the unwelcome item can be downloaded behind the scenes. The fact that the policy is labeled as “Mandatory” on that page is also some bad news. It means that the associated sketchy app runs with elevated privileges that override the settings specified by the user.

‘Managed by your organization’ Chrome alert caused by Mac malware

At this point, it makes sense to dwell on the essence and purpose of ExtensionInstallForcelist. It is intended to be a legitimate enterprise policy that allows a network administrator to configure the list of apps and browser add-ons that can be installed in a forcible way, that is to say, behind the user’s back and with no need to get their consent in any form. In an ideal world, this is a great mechanism for IT staff within an organization to adjust all Macs in the network with corporate software requirements and business workflows. So much for the benign use cases.

The problem is that Mac malware developers abuse the ExtensionInstallForcelist policy to quietly riddle a victim’s Chrome browser with harmful extensions. With this interference in place, a phrase saying, “Managed by your organization” will appear at the bottom of the “Customize and control Google Chrome” pull-down menu, as illustrated on the screenshot above. If the Mac isn’t part of an enterprise network, this notice means one thing – the system has malicious software on board.

Evil configuration profile specifying ExtensionInstallForcelist policy

Technically, the source for the unauthorized onset of this Chrome policy lurks underneath the System Preferences pane accessible from the Dock. It’s all about the Profiles feature, which is originally geared toward configuring different areas of the Mac in a way that fits corporate IT guidelines. But in a malware assault scenario, this functionality is turned against the user because it sets rules that play into the attacker’s hands. For instance, a fraudulent device profile that applies to com.google.Chrome can define the ExtensionInstallForcelist policy and hard-code a dangerous extension’s ID so that the entity can be incorporated without the victim’s awareness and permission.

This paves the way for browser hijackers to plague the Mac in a snap. The outcome is that the default Chrome settings are replaced with unrelated junk such as the above-mentioned searchmarquis.com pseudo-search engine that forwards all requests to Bing, or search.safefinderformac.com that leads to Yahoo. This is, clearly, a predicament that doesn’t get along with normal user experience and needs fixing. Deleting the shady configuration profile is half the battle, but there are quite a few more things to do. Importantly, although ExtensionInstallForcelist is a Chrome-only policy that might indicate malicious activity, other Mac browsers are most likely affected as well. Therefore, the following cleaning steps additionally cover ways to eliminate malware from Safari and Firefox.

ExtensionInstallForcelist policy 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 QSearch, 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 ExtensionInstallForcelist 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, ChromePrefs 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 ExtensionInstallForcelist policy-abusing virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the ExtensionInstallForcelist related 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 ExtensionInstallForcelist 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

  2. Remove ExtensionInstallForcelist related 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
  3. Remove ExtensionInstallForcelist related malware 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 ExtensionInstallForcelist virus-borne policy using Combo Cleaner removal tool

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