The SmokeLoader Malware is a dangerous weapon used against computer users worldwide. It infects mainly via phishing email messages. Our article gives an overview of its behavior according to the collected samples and available reports, also it may be helpful in attempting to remove the virus.
|Short Description||The SmokeLoader Malware is a computer virus that is designed to silently infiltrate computer systems.|
|Symptoms||The victims may not experience any apparent symptoms of infection.|
|Distribution Method||Software Vulnerabilities, Freeware Installations, Bundled Packages, Scripts and others.|
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|User Experience||Join Our Forum to Discuss SmokeLoader Malware.|
SmokeLoader Malware – Distribution Methods
The SmokeLoader malware is a new payload dropper which has been captured in a live attack campaign. At the moment it is not known which is the main delivery strategy however we assume that the criminals are going to use the most popular ones. This includes the following:
- Email Phishing Messages — The hackers can send out messages that pose as legitimate notifications that have been sent by well-known companies and services. They contain links to proposed sites or files that are deemed as required to be opened by the users: software updates, service notifications, account changes and etc. The virus files can also be attached directly to the emails.
- Malware Application Installers — Another alternative is to create infected application installers of popular software. The hackers target products which are most likely to be used by end users: system utilities, creativity suites, productivity and office apps and etc. As soon as the relevant executable file is opened the SmokeLoader malware will be engaged. These files are made by taking the legitimate files from their official sources and infecting with the necessary code.
- Infected Documents — The criminals can also embed the dangerous virus installation code in documents across all popular types: text files, databases, spreadsheets and presentations. This is done in the macros, whenever they are opened by the victims a prompt will be presented to them asking for these scripts to be run. The quoted reason is that this is required in order to correctly view the contents of the file.
- Malware Sites — Both the direct virus files and any malicious payload carriers can be carried in hacker-made sites. They are hosted on similar sounding domain names as legitimate and well-known portals. In most cases the criminals will impersonate search engines, download portals, product landing pages and etc.
- Browser Hijackers — The virus files can be spread over dangerous extensions which are made for the most popular web browsers. The infections are caused mainly through interaction with the relevant repositories which are one of the most popular places that host them. They are uploaded with fake or stolen developer credentials and user reviews.
Another strategy that can be attempted by the hacking collective is to launch direct attacks by exploiting vulnerabilities. This is done in an automated manner by using automated software.
SmokeLoader Malware – Detailed Description
At the moment there is no information about the identity of the hackers that are behind the SmokeLoader malware campaigns. It is presumed that they are experienced as the malware can be leased on the underground markets for spreading of other threats. By itself it is a modular platform that can be configured to launch different actions depending on the current configuration or certain victim machine conditions.
As soon as the infection has been made the main engine will call a security bypass function which can act against virtual machine hosts. The collected samples will scan the memory of the computer system and detect if there are any running hosts. If such are found the process will terminate itself, in some cases it can even delete all virus files in order to avoid detection. Future versions of this module can be updated to include other software as well: anti-virus engines, firewalls, intrusion detection systems and etc.
This is followed by an in-depth data harvesting module which can be programmed to acquire data that can be categorized into two main types:
- Personal Information — The engine can acquire data that can directly expose the identity of the victims. This is done by searching for strings such as a person’s name, address, phone number, interests, account credentials and etc.
- Machine Identification — It is used to assign an unique ID to each affected computer. This is done by launching an algorithm that takes its input parameters from information such as the installed hardware components, system settings and user preferences.
The code analysis shows that it can hook up to existing processes or create ones of its own. This is especilly dangerous as this also includes those with administrative privileges. The collected samples can also interact with the Windows Volume Manager which will allow the hackers to spy on the victims activities in real-time. Code injection is one of the most dangerous effects of the SmokeLoader malware infection. This causes the execution of virus code by various processes making it much more difficult to remove.
It has been confirmed that these samples are configured to enable a persistent infection — this means that the boot options and system settings will be changed in order to automatically start the engine as soon as the computer is powered on. In many cases this also blocks access to the recovery options and boot menus which are used during manual user recovery. In this case the victims will need to resort to a quality anti-spyware solution.
Another consequence of having this infection active is that it can be programmed to delete sensitive data such as backups, system restore points and shadow volume copies. This means that the victims will need to use a data recovery solution to effectively recover their computers.
The relevant engine has also been found to connect to a hacker-controlled server by running its built-in Trojan instance. This will allow the operators to take over control of the machines, spy on the victims activities and hijack data. By classification this is a dropper which means that it can be used to deliver a wide variety of other threats. Some of the most commmon ones include the following:
- Ransomware — This is one of the most popular malware types — viruses that use a built-in list of target file type extensions which are encrypted with a strong cipher. The processed data is renamed with a given extension and a ransom note or another type of message is produced in order to blackmail the recipients into paying the hackers a “decryption fee”.
- Cryptocurrency Miners — These applications or scripts can be called in order to run complex tasks that take advantage of the system’s performance. This can place a very heavy toll on components such as the CPU, memory, hard disk spce and memory. The controlling mechanism is a remote server called “mining pool” which will monitor the running tasks. Whenever one of them is reported digital currency will be awarded to the hackers behind the SmokeLoader malware.
- Web Browser Hijackers — They will change the default settings of the affected web browsers in order to redirect the victims to a preset hacker-controlled page. This is done by modifying the home page, new tabs and search engine values.
We anticipate that future versions will also be programmed to change the Windows Registry. When values that belong to the operating system are affected the victims may experiences serious performance issues to the point of rendering the system completely unusable. When the Registry values of third-party are affected then the normal routine will be changed — unexpected errors may be presented.
Remove NtCrypt Crypter Completely
To remove SmokeLoader Malware manually from your computer, follow the step-by-step removal tutorial written down below. In case this manual removal does not get rid of the miner malware completely, you should search for and remove any leftover items with an advanced anti-malware tool. Such software can keep your computer secure in the future.
- Guide 1: How to Remove SmokeLoader Malware from Windows.
- Guide 2: Get rid of SmokeLoader Malware on Mac OS X.
- Guide 3: Remove SmokeLoader Malware in Google Chrome.
- Guide 4: Erase SmokeLoader Malware from Mozilla Firefox.
- Guide 5: Uninstall SmokeLoader Malware from Microsoft Edge.
- Guide 6: Remove SmokeLoader Malware from Safari.
- Guide 7: Eliminate SmokeLoader Malware from Internet Explorer.
- Guide 8: Disable SmokeLoader Malware Push Notifications in Your Browsers.
How to Remove SmokeLoader Malware from Windows.
Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove SmokeLoader Malware
Step 2: Uninstall SmokeLoader Malware and related software from Windows
Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it.
Step 3: Clean any registries, created by SmokeLoader Malware on your computer.
The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:
You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by SmokeLoader Malware there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:
Get rid of SmokeLoader Malware from Mac OS X.
Step 1: Uninstall SmokeLoader Malware and remove related files and objects
1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:
- Go to Finder.
- In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
- Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
- If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.
In case you cannot remove SmokeLoader Malware via Step 1 above:
In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:
You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:
Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.
Step 2: Scan for and remove SmokeLoader Malware files from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts and programs such as SmokeLoader Malware, the recommended way of eliminating the threat is by using an anti-malware program. SpyHunter for Mac offers advanced security features along with other modules that will improve your Mac’s security and protect it in the future.
Remove SmokeLoader Malware from Google Chrome.
Step 1: Start Google Chrome and open the drop menu
Step 2: Move the cursor over "Tools" and then from the extended menu choose "Extensions"
Step 3: From the opened "Extensions" menu locate the unwanted extension and click on its "Remove" button.
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Google Chrome by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Erase SmokeLoader Malware from Mozilla Firefox.
Step 1: Start Mozilla Firefox. Open the menu window
Step 2: Select the "Add-ons" icon from the menu.
Step 3: Select the unwanted extension and click "Remove"
Step 4: After the extension is removed, restart Mozilla Firefox by closing it from the red "X" button at the top right corner and start it again.
Uninstall SmokeLoader Malware from Microsoft Edge.
Step 1: Start Edge browser.
Step 2: Open the drop menu by clicking on the icon at the top right corner.
Step 3: From the drop menu select "Extensions".
Step 4: Choose the suspected malicious extension you want to remove and then click on the gear icon.
Step 5: Remove the malicious extension by scrolling down and then clicking on Uninstall.
Remove SmokeLoader Malware from Safari.
Step 1: Start the Safari app.
Step 2: After hovering your mouse cursor to the top of the screen, click on the Safari text to open its drop down menu.
Step 3: From the menu, click on "Preferences".
Step 4: After that, select the 'Extensions' Tab.
Step 5: Click once on the extension you want to remove.
Step 6: Click 'Uninstall'.
A pop-up window will appear asking for confirmation to uninstall the extension. Select 'Uninstall' again, and the SmokeLoader Malware will be removed.
Eliminate SmokeLoader Malware from Internet Explorer.
Step 1: Start Internet Explorer.
Step 2: Click on the gear icon labeled 'Tools' to open the drop menu and select 'Manage Add-ons'
Step 3: In the 'Manage Add-ons' window.
Step 4: Select the extension you want to remove and then click 'Disable'. A pop-up window will appear to inform you that you are about to disable the selected extension, and some more add-ons might be disabled as well. Leave all the boxes checked, and click 'Disable'.
Step 5: After the unwanted extension has been removed, restart Internet Explorer by closing it from the red 'X' button located at the top right corner and start it again.
Remove Push Notifications caused by SmokeLoader Malware from Your Browsers.
Turn Off Push Notifications from Google Chrome
To disable any Push Notices from Google Chrome browser, please follow the steps below:
Step 1: Go to Settings in Chrome.
Step 2: In Settings, select “Advanced Settings”:
Step 3: Click “Content Settings”:
Step 4: Open “Notifications”:
Step 5: Click the three dots and choose Block, Edit or Remove options:
Remove Push Notifications on Firefox
Step 1: Go to Firefox Options.
Step 2: Go to “Settings”, type “notifications” in the search bar and click "Settings":
Step 3: Click “Remove” on any site you wish notifications gone and click “Save Changes”
Stop Push Notifications on Opera
Step 1: In Opera, press ALT+P to go to Settings
Step 2: In Setting search, type “Content” to go to Content Settings.
Step 3: Open Notifications:
Step 4: Do the same as you did with Google Chrome (explained below):
Eliminate Push Notifications on Safari
Step 1: Open Safari Preferences.
Step 2: Choose the domain from where you like push pop-ups gone and change to "Deny" from "Allow".