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“Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure will damage your computer” popup alert removal on Mac

Learn how to fix the Mac issue that results in popups saying Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client, Vpnagentd, or Pulse Secure will damage your computer.

Apple appears to be busy sanitizing the area of virtual private network (VPN) and third-party security services active in its ecosystem. In late August 2021, numerous Mac users found themselves trapped in a loop of incessant popup alerts that report popular tools of this kind as potentially harmful. The bulk of this scrutiny has fallen onto products developed by Cisco Systems. This is undoubtedly a trusted vendor whose software should pass all imaginable security checks with flying colors, but something must have gone wrong. Pulse Secure, another publisher focused on secure remote access solutions, ended up in the same boat.

So, what’s happening? Both enterprise and individual Mac users who rely on these tools are constantly bombarded by frustrating popup alerts that say, “Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure will damage your computer”. This is a particularly serious issue for corporate customers that keep their remote workforce connected to their IT assets via services of this sort. It turns out that the surge in these warnings might have a false positive nature and malware implications alike. Let’s dive into these predicaments to figure out how to address them.

“Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client will damage your computer” Mac popup

This toolkit by Cisco is the stalwart component of many organization’s teleworking practices amid the ongoing global healthcare calamity. It allows companies to maintain remote employees’ secure access to their digital infrastructures from different devices round the clock. Unsurprisingly, when macOS Big Sur and macOS Catalina began flagging this software as malware, the normal day-to-day business processes of the affected businesses went down the drain all of a sudden.

‘Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client will damage your computer’ Mac pop-up

Not only do these popup alerts prevent endpoint users from opening the program, but they also create panic among clients, which is fertile soil for users’ troubleshooting blunders that can entail disastrous consequences in a corporate IT territory. Here is the most plausible theory at this point: the file signatures of Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client v4.7 and earlier got on Apple’s security radar for some reason. A no-longer-trusted RSA certificate is most likely to blame for this. The Mac’s built-in XProtect technology, which performs signature-based malware detection, probably got the green light to block any improperly signed apps. According to some reports, upgrading to Cisco AnyConnect v4.8 fixes the problem for good.

“Vpnagentd will damage your computer” alert on Mac

This warning has basically the same origin as the one described above. Vpnagentd is a Launch Daemon responsible for the seamless functioning of Cisco’s virtual private network and security solution in question. A recent tweak in the macOS security logic must have unleashed the blocking power of XProtect, which explains why customers are bumping into “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” popups non-stop. On a side note, similar causality is behind an outbreak of warnings that say, “Ciscod will damage your computer”.

‘Vpnagentd will damage your computer’ alert

The fix could be as trivial as installing the latest version of Cisco AnyConnect. However, it is within the realms of possibility that the bug has malicious roots. If a strain of Mac malware tries to mimic this legitimate product or poison its components with strings of dodgy code, the native macOS defenses could interpret this as an attack and act accordingly. One way or another, the probability of this scenario shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Pulse Secure will damage your computer” popup alert on Mac

Pulse Secure has recently gotten a dose of disfavor from Apple, too. The users of its Mac products are experiencing obnoxious detection activity as if these were severe threats. In this case, the hypothesis about Apple’s security mechanisms suddenly distrusting the digital certificates used by Pulse Secure doesn’t seem far-fetched either. Therefore, applying product updates is absolutely worth a shot if the drag kicks in.

‘Pulse Secure will damage your computer’ popup warning on Mac

All these episodes may have a common denominator other than legitimate software makers’ certification slip-ups. A notorious malware trick is to impersonate benign files or processes in an attempt to fool system defenses. If a harmful entity passes itself off as a component of Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client, such as Vpnagentd or Ciscod, or impersonates Pulse Secure software, then Apple’s XProtect and Gatekeeper tandem will likely start blocking them and display the appropriate warning popups. To err on the side of caution, it is recommended to check the Mac for such “undercover” activity.

“Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure will damage your computer” virus popup 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 UtilityParze, 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 the 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, 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 Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure popup virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by this 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 Cisco AnyConnect, Vpnagentd, Pulse Secure 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 Cisco AnyConnect, Vpnagentd, Pulse Secure malware 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 Cisco AnyConnect, Vpnagentd, Pulse Secure popups 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.

Use automatic tool to remove “Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure will damage your computer” alert virus from your Mac

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure popup 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 Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure popup 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 Cisco AnyConnect / Vpnagentd / Pulse Secure popup 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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