Read this to learn the causes for the ‘Vpnagentd will damage your computer’ alerts on Mac and the workarounds for this annoying problem.
What is Vpnagentd and why does macOS flag it as a threat?
Forced to pass through the prism of the pandemic, the enterprise sector continues to adjust its day-to-day activities to the circumstances. Not that telework had been an outright marginal thing before the healthcare crisis broke out, but it has reached new heights ever since. The bitter truth is that many organizations were unprepared for the leap, while the silver lining is that things are getting smoother in this regard. Major tech companies are providing flexible turnkey services for deploying remote work securely. Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client is an example. Geared toward facilitating employees’ access to an enterprise network from any device and any place, it is numerous businesses’ top choice. However, its Mac version may put a spanner in the works, with the system alerting users to risk when some components of this solution are being launched. Non-stop warning messages that say, “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” fit this context.
Here is an important thing to understand: Vpnagentd itself is not malicious. It’s a Cisco AnyConnect process responsible for establishing and maintaining a stable virtual private network connection on Mac. Technically, it’s a Launch Daemon that runs alongside other modules of the suite in question. For instance, the warning pop-ups usually co-occur with macOS reporting entities called Ciscod and Cisco AnyConnect as potential perils. An obvious question arises at this point – why does the system red-light the execution of these legitimate services? The intention behind any “* will damage your computer” notification is to pull the plug on a suspicious process. Apparently, Vpnagentd ended up on that list for some reason. Let’s dive into this controversial rationale on Apple’s end.
Prominent macOS security features, such as Notarization, Gatekeeper, and XProtect, are going tough on applications whose digital certificates fail to pass basic checks. The “Vpnagentd will damage your computer”, “Ciscod will damage your computer”, and “Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client will damage your computer” alerts have one thing in common. All these daemons have code-signing issues. The operating system’s protection algorithms identify an expired or insecure RSA certificate, which pulls the user into a vicious circle of errors.
This gives a few clues on the ways to bypass the pop-ups. The latest version of Cisco’s enterprise toolkit is reportedly using a valid cert, and therefore a trivial update of the suite should fully address the bug. The only situation in which this is problematic is when the solution is running on a computer with an old macOS iteration that’s no longer supported by Cisco AnyConnect. If so, upgrading the hardware to install a newer system version, if possible, or swapping the Mac for a new one is a must.
There is one more flavor of this predicament. The errors may pop up when a malicious Mac application’s executable portrays itself as Vpnagentd. Since cybercriminals aren’t restricted in their malware naming convention, this impersonation is theoretically possible. If it kicks in, the system will easily pinpoint the discrepancy and try to terminate the untrustworthy binary, letting the user know about the threat. The odds of this scenario are very low, but again, it’s a viable trick. Furthermore, some adware samples may trigger such warnings in a web browser – that’s a clear giveaway of a scam that lures the user into clicking the wrong button. In case updating Cisco software to fix certificate imperfections is to no avail, use the following recommendations to address the other possible causes for the influx of these exasperating alerts.
“Vpnagentd will damage your computer” 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 UtilityParze, ProgressSite, and IdeaShared.
- 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 Vpnagentd popup 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 Safari 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” virus in web browser on Mac
To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” 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
- 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” malware 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” error malware using Combo Cleaner removal tool
The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” popup 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 “Vpnagentd will damage your computer” popup 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.