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Remove “Browser is infected” pop-up virus from Mac

A recent deluge of pop-up alerts on Macs saying ‘Browser is infected’ is a call to action as it signals a malvertising scam that pushes rogue software.

What is “Browser is infected. Attention! Viruses detected” Mac alert?

The macOS threat landscape used to be clearly dominated by rogue security tools, such as the notorious Advanced Mac Cleaner, and browser hijackers like Search Marquis. While both categories are still making a difference in this environment, they have now been quantitatively eclipsed by less severe yet hugely annoying pests that manipulate the web push notification logic. A long-standing example is the Ask You pop-up virus, but it’s not the only widespread one in existence. Since early 2024, a new spinoff has been doing the rounds that frightens users with alerts that say “Browser is infected. Attention! Viruses Detected”. Ironically, while this is undoubtedly a fake warning in and of itself, it does symptomize a security problem at a browser level. This situation requires disinfection, but not the type recommended in the phony alerts. That being said, let’s break down this Mac condition into the root causes, manifestation nuances, and cleanup methods.

Source website specified in ‘Browser is infected’ alert

If the “Browser is infected” notifications are showing up on your Mac’s home screen non-stop, it’s a fair bet that you have recently slipped up when interacting with some untrustworthy website. Here is how the attack typically unfolds: the user is manipulated into visiting a fraudulent site that supposedly contains some kind of must-see content such as a viral video, gift giveaways, or “killer” deals. The landing page will then trigger a human verification pop-up at the top left. The catch is that this dialog doesn’t necessarily say something like, “[site name] wants to show notifications” straightforwardly. Instead, it cloaks such a request with what seems to be garden-variety human verification, telling you to click “Allow” to confirm that you are not a robot. If this permission is granted, the outcome is that the web page has the green light to display above-mentioned web push notifications.

From that moment on, the desktop’s upper right part is going to be swamped with pop-ups that dupe you into thinking that your browser is infected. Each one will include the logo of the web browser in which you previously engaged with the dubious site. The screenshots here illustrate an instance of Safari-sourced malvertising, but it can as well be Chrome or Firefox if that’s your default browser. One of the most unsettling things about this style of attack is that the ads will continue to fill up the Mac’s Notifications Center area even when the hijacked browser is closed.

Generally speaking, such dialogs can be helpful as long as you knowingly enable them from within an arbitrary trusted app, whether it’s the Calendar, Mail, or your favorite messenger. They keep the user on top of things to make sure nothing important is missed. But when the permission is given behind one’s back, things turn upside down and make users want to disable notifications on Mac altogether. Spoiler: there’s a more delicate fix that won’t affect legitimate alerts – this will be described further down.

‘Browser is infected’ pop-up on Mac

Let’s look at what goals the “Browser is infected” pop-up scam pursues. Every such object contains a hyperlink that, once clicked, directs the victim to an unsafe place on the internet. To increase the chance of such clicks, the operators of this hoax can resort to a classic scare tactic by adding a snippet that says, “Attention! Viruses detected!” An embedded “Remove virus” button adds the finishing touches to the stratagem, leading to a site that reports imaginary threats on the Mac. These can range from info-stealing trojans to ransomware. To get rid of them, you’ll be instructed to download and install a pseudo-cleaner that does nothing but run an animation mimicking virus removal. In some cases, the page recommends contacting a support agent who will end up asking for remote access to your Mac. This potentially results in the exfiltration of sensitive data or an imitation of a severe security and system performance predicament, which is fertile soil for a paid fix.

None of these scenarios is in the user’s favor. The most reasonable response to an influx of “Browser is infected” alerts is to tidy up the permissions in the poisoned web browser. Again, turning off all notifications system-wide is an overreaction. It’s much wiser to diagnose the issue thoroughly, isolate the symptoms to a specific environment, and revoke the wrong permission. One extra thing to keep in mind is that the disinfection may stretch beyond that – in the event you have interacted with a linked-to malicious web page and downloaded something sketchy from it. Either way, the following paragraphs will shed light on the techniques to stop the “Browser is infected” pop-ups for good and make sure there is no related malware on board your Mac.

“Browser is infected” pop-up 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 nbp, 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 “Browser is infected” pop-up 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 “Browser is infected” alert virus on 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 “Browser is infected” malware on 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 “Browser is infected” pop-ups 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 “Browser is infected” notification virus from your Mac

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove “Browser is infected” 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 “Browser is infected” 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 an update of the 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 “Browser is infected” 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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