Browser redirect viruses continue to take the Mac world by storm, with one of the latest strains Charmsearching.com demonstrating the depth of the problem.
What is the Charmsearching Mac virus?
Whereas malware that homes in on the Mac environment is a growingly unsettling phenomenon, there aren’t a whole lot of its active forms in the wild. One category that truly makes a difference in terms of prevalence and overall impact is adware, which spans ad-injecting programs and browser redirect threats. The latter stand out due to their tricky distribution, persistence, and extraordinary nuisance characteristics. Charmsearching.com is a prime example of this species. When inside a Mac, it seizes control of the victim’s web browsing preferences and specifies new settings without asking. In doing so, it pursues the goal of rerouting to Bing. Albeit ostensibly counterintuitive, this tactic of driving hits to the legitimate search engine has been around for years and makes quite a bit of sense. This way, the foul play doesn’t seem so invasive, and the user is less likely to notice what’s happening behind the scenes.
The key thing hidden in plain sight is the structure of the redirect path, which includes Charmsearching.com along with a series of extra in-between URLs linked with advertising networks whose business practices rely on dubious user acquisition schemes. This interference is hard to notice because it only lasts for a split second during each redirect and is reflected in the browser’s status area at the bottom of the window. Yet, it defines the gist of the malware makers’ plan. These folks seek profit through traffic monetization and couldn’t care less what techniques are employed to generate unique hits from Mac machines. In the context of this stratagem, they are most likely piggybacking Bing’s good reputation to eclipse the malicious activity happening in the background.
Charmsearching.com operators leverage an interesting mechanism to give their distribution campaign a boost. Most infection cases stem from trojanized browser extensions Mac users download from marketplaces whose proprietors neglect to follow proper verification practices with regard to the apps promoted there. The scarier thing is that many users run into problems even without engaging with questionable software portals. For instance, a handful of eye-catching extensions available on the official Chrome Web Store have been the sources of this contagion over the past few months. Some examples are Auto Page Refresh, Smart Auto Refresh, Rainbow Color Picker, Dusk (dark mode extension), Calculator, Volume Amplifier, Vspeed Controller, and Delta Free VPN. The question remains open how these booby-trapped objects passed all the rigid checks and made it to the app store, but the fact persists that this gave the propagation a great deal of extra momentum.
Persistence is another distinguishing hallmark of the Charmsearching.com redirect virus. From a user’s perspective, it is manifested as inability to change the homepage, new tab page, and default search engine settings in a contaminated web browser. The rogue customizations appear to be sort of hard-coded because of an offbeat quirk that involves configuration profiles, a macOS feature meant for regulating software usage patterns across organizations. While network admins tend to make the most of this functionality to ensure compliance with corporate policies, cybercriminals have come to mishandle it to maintain grip on systems they attack. Luckily, this obtrusion is easy to overcome – all it takes is going to System Preferences, selecting Profiles, and purging the list of an entry that doesn’t belong there. From that point, a regular malware removal procedure should pan out without issues. Speaking of which, use the following steps to get rid of the underlying malware and address the Charmsearching.com redirect problem.
Charmsearching 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.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 com.AuraSearchDaemon, 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 the following dodgy items related to Charmsearching redirect virus: com.ConnectionCache.service.plist, com.digitalprotection.emcupdater.plist, com.mulkey.plist, com.nbp.plist, and com.sys.system.plist. Drag these files 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 the items cropped by this Mac infection are com.ConnectionCache.system.plist, and com.mulkeyd.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 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 AdminPrefs, TechSignalSearch, MainSearchPlatform, and Safari Preferences. 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 Charmsearching.com virus in web browser on Mac
To begin with, the web browser settings taken over by the Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com virus using Combo Cleaner removal tool
The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com 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 Charmsearching.com 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.