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Remove Aura Search Mac virus in Chrome, Safari, Firefox

Macs are on the receiving end of another browser hijacking scheme featuring Aura Search, a malicious app that takes over victims’ web surfing preferences.

Whereas Apple’s macOS is still an increasingly hard nut for cybercriminals to crack, it continues to be an oasis for adware. These tiny applications don’t pursue any particularly destructive goals, unlike nasties such as ransomware or info-stealing Trojans, but they are a pain in the neck to deal with due to their firm grip and sketchy gist. Speaking of the latter, their primary focus is on web browsers, which are by far the most-used pieces of software on the average computer. Aura Search fits the mold of this phenomenon. First off, its onset in a system doesn’t involve the Mac owner’s awareness and consent. Secondly, once inside, it changes several important settings that are normally specified by the user rather than by a program. As a result, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome will be repeatedly forwarded to aura-search.net, the “official” website of this shadowy service.

Aura Search Mac virus redirects via powerofsearches.com

Aura Search is spreading through various software packages designed specifically to conceal potentially unwanted items underneath a neat wrapping. Also referred to as bundles, these setup clients pretend to facilitate the installation of some useful, and typically free apps. This turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, though. The legitimate part obscures one or several objects that don’t reveal themselves unless the user selects the custom install option. Aura Search lurks among those extras that are hidden in plain sight. By agreeing to the conspicuous terms of the bundle, people unwittingly let the adware in. From there, the pest deposits its files into a series of system folders, including LaunchAgents, LaunchDaemons, and Application Support. A few examples are com.AuraSearchDaemon and com.AuraSearch.plist.

The infection also tends to add its process to the Login Items list so that it’s automatically executed on startup and wreaks uninterrupted havoc with Internet navigation on the machine. Many victims who realize they have fallen victim to malicious code begin their cleanup with a search for browser extensions, only to get stuck at that point because there are none. The thing is, Aura Search follows in the footsteps of other high-profile Mac adware by using a technique that’s reminiscent of how network administrators enforce policies on corporate workstations. It abuses the command-line utility to add a configuration profile that mismanages the entire web navigation side of Mac usage. This tactic skews the default search, homepage, and new tab settings so that aura-search.net or its clone search.aura-search.net becomes the most frequently visited site.

Malicious Mac configuration profile added by Aura Search

What’s the whole point of this activity? Traffic monetization, for the most part. The authors of the Aura Search virus, as those affected often dub it, is to redirect browsers to a legitimate search provider via an interstitial domain that functions as an advertising network API. Victims who look closely can notice that the rerouting process involves the powerofsearches.com URL. It doesn’t show up in the status bar for more than a split second but plays a crucial role in this stratagem. All unique hits from the contaminated Macs accumulate into monetary gain.

In addition, the dodgy app snoops on users’ web surfing and other fingerprintable information. It quietly collects browsing history details and system specifications, consolidates this data, and allows its makers to create a profile of the person. This can be a powerful instrument for phishing attacks and identity theft. By and large, Aura Search is both a nuisance and a sneaky culprit that looks into every nook and cranny of the plagued Mac to maximize the area of exploitation. It means that it should be exterminated without a second thought. Predictably, this isn’t as easy as going to the Applications folder and sending the eponymous program to the Trash. It may not even be listed there, after all. Use the following steps to solve the problem for good.

Aura Search 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.AuraSearch.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 com.AuraSearch, com.AuraSearchDaemon, 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 Aura Search 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.AuraSearch.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 Aura Search 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 TechSignalSearch, MainSearchPlatform, AdminPrefs, and Safari 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 Aura Search virus in web browser on Mac

To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Aura Search 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 Aura Search 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 Aura Search 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 Aura Search 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 Aura Search malware using Combo Cleaner removal tool

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