Remove SearchAwesome Mac Adware — Mac Restore Instructions

Remove SearchAwesome Mac Adware — Mac Restore Instructions

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This article has been created in order to give you insight on how to quickly remove the SearchAwesome Mac Adware from your Mac effectively.

The SearchAwesome Mac Adware is a very dangerous threat to all Mac computers as it can install itself silently and lead to data theft. Active infections can be made without any apparent symptoms and depending on the specific hacker instructions different actions can take place. This is the reason why affected users should remove it immediately.

Threat Summary

NameSearchAwesome Mac Adware
TypeMac OS Adware
Short DescriptionThe SearchAwesome Mac Adware installs various malware on the target computers.
SymptomsThe victims may not experience any apparent signs of infection.
Distribution MethodEmails, infected software installers and other methods.
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SearchAwesome Mac Adware — How Did I Get It

The SearchAwesome Mac Adware is a popular malicious threat which is known to be spread using several different methods. The available research shows that the malicious actors behind it attempt to coerce the targets into installing a setup file that looks like a legitimate app installer.

One of the most common ways to do this is to coordinate email SPAM messages that are sent in bulk to the target recipients. They are usually designed to appear as legitimate notifications or offers sent by well-known companies or services. These setup files may be directly attached or linked in the body contents.

These setup files can also be spread using various malicious payloads, two of the common types are the following:

  • Malicious Documents — The operators can use macro-infected documents of all popular types to spread the infections. A virus-infected file can be a rich text document, presentation, database or spreadsheet. When the relevant file is opened a notification prompt will be spawned which will request the user to enable the built-in scripts. If this is done then the virus infection will automatically begin.
  • Bundle Installers — The malicious code can be bundled with the installers of popular end-user software: system utilities, creativity suites and productivity applications. Whenever they are installed the virus instance will also be installed.

To further increase the chances of acquiring the infection the criminal operators can construct malicious sites. They can be made to look like an official vendor product image and download portals. The SearchAwesome Mac Adware samples can also be found on file sharing networks. A very popular option is BitTorrent where both legitimate and pirate content can be found.

In advanced cases the hacker operators can also make use of browser hijackers which are often used to spread all kinds of malware. They represent malicious web browser plugins which are uploaded to the official repositories. They are advertised as useful additions and performance optimizations. They are uploaded using fake/stolen user reviews and developer credentials. When the installation is complete the built-in pattern of code will be started.

When the infections are done using the startup file carrying the infection an authorization prompt will be shown. There are two authentication boxes which require the users to enter in their account credentials — Certificate Trust Settings and Network Configuration Modification. This will lead to the second-stage payload delivery script.

SearchAwesome Mac Adware — Full Description

Following the initial deployment the SearchAwesome Mac Adware will install an application and several launch agents. The distinct feature is that during this phase an additional step is made — the installation of a certificate allowing man-in-the-middle attacks. This process allows the malicious operators to spy even on encrypted traffic. A side effect is ability to intercept all kinds of private data: usernames, passwords and etc.

The application that is installed is the open-source software called mitmproxy. This is an utility that is used to intercept, inspect, modify and replay web traffic. When this is combined with the certificate this also allows the manipulation of encrypted traffic.

Another side effect of the SearchAwesome Mac Adware is the injection of JavaScript code into all loaded pages. This can result in the ability to load various malware. A sample list includes the following:

  • Intrusive Ads — The SearchAwesome Mac Adware in most cases is used to load intrusive ads in the form of pop-ups, banners and redirects. They display sponsored content, every click made by the user leads to profit generation for the malicious operators.
  • Cryptocurrency Miners — The JavaScript code is used to load a miner instance which will take advantage of the available system resources to execute complex tasks. When they are complete this will be reported to a specialist hacker-controlled server which will award the malware operators with digital currency.
  • Hijackers — In some cases the infections can be used to install malicious web browser plugins. They are usually accompanied by a description promising greater functionality or optimization. Once installed they can lead to many modifications of the browser settings and the deployment of other threats.
  • Trojan Instances — Another dangerous possibility is to load Trojan viruses which are primarily used to spy on the victim users. They set up a secure connection to a hacker-controlled server. This allows the hackers to remote control the victim systems, hijack user data and spy on the users activities at any given time.
  • Ransomware — Active infections can be used to deliver ransomware viruses. They are used to encrypt target user files according to a built-in list of file type extensions.

The security reports indicate that it is very possible that the JavaScript code can be changed to include a keylogger component. It is used to monitor the keystrokes and mouse movement thereby revealing even entry to online banking accounts. This is possible due to the fact that most of them use virtual on-screen keyboards.


Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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