What Is SkyWard?
SkyWard is yet another AdLoad variant currently circling the web, specifically targeting Mac users.
AdLoad variants such as SkyWard are typically distributed as Trojan dropper apps masqueraded as Flash Player installers. The installer drops a LaunchAgent or a LaunchDaemon, thus achieving persistence on the macOS system. This level of persistence makes SkyWard a cunning threat that requires professional help to be removed thoroughly.
At the end of this article, we provide selected options to remove suspicious, trojan-like programs such as SkyWard from your Mac.
SkyWard Threat Summary
|Name||SkyWard also known as Trojan.Adload|
|Type||Potentially Unwanted Application / Adware / Browser Hijacker|
|Short Description||A potentially unwanted app. This program aims to heavily modify your web browsers’ settings to display ads and redirect you to suspicious pages.|
|Symptoms||Preferred web browser is configured to redirect you to unwanted pages. Slower Mac performance could be experienced as well.|
|Distribution Method||Software Bundles, Corrupted Installers, Bogus Websites/Webpages|
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SkyWard Mac Adware – How Did It Get Installed on My Mac?
How are AdLoad variants such as SkyWard distributed across the web?
Several techniques are usually deployed for the distribution of the SkyWard suspicious program. A common technique is software bundling. Bundling revolves around programs that pretend to be useful and legit but come bundled with ad-supported apps.
The purpose of bundling is quick monetization. Popular software apps may deliver unwanted apps such as SkyWard. This includes media players, file converters, weather toolbars, online streaming apps, etc.
The installers of these programs often present optional offers or free extras. At the same time, they are not designed to appropriately disclose information about added apps. That’s how users fail to notice their presence during the installation of whatever software they wanted to download.
Other scenarios include users interacting with suspicious pages (torrenting and online streaming websites, adult pages, free online games, etc.). On these pages, users may click on suspicious links, banners, and offers. The result may be an unnoticed download and install of a potentially unwanted program.
A very wide-spread propagation is using a fake Flash Player update. Your browser may generate a fake error message, claiming that “Adobe Flash Player Is Out of Date”. Interacting with the message, like clicking on the download button it provides, will surely install an adware on your Mac.
N.B. Once started on your Mac, such a program could access all installed browsers’ settings to apply significant changes. One of these changes often affects the default search engine in your preferred web browser. If your default search engine is altered without your consent, then don’t waste time but go check your macOS security. This problem is a definite sign that a suspicious piece of software has sneaked into your system.
Furthermore, as long as files associated with the SkyWard adware are running on your Mac, you may be a victim of unsolicited data collection.
- Visited URLs and websites
- Browser’s home page
- Search queries
- Search queries on the visited web pages
- Type of used browser
- Operating system type
- Internet protocol (IP) address
- Geographic location
- The domain name of the current Internet service provider (ISP)
- Banking credentials
- Entered keystrokes
Shady adware developers may use your data records in targeted advertising campaigns. Once the data is available on their servers, it can be used for the identification of your online interests. Ads delivered by undesired apps may target your interests. At worst, data records will be released on dark web markets for additional revenue.
How Does SkyWard Achieve Persistence on macOS?
Note that AdLoad variants such as SkyWard have been known to install a persistence agent in Library LaunchAgents folder. This way the adware becomes persistence on the machine, and requires specific technical approach to remove completely.
Is SkyWard a Virus?
No, adware programs are not considered viruses. However, there have been cases of persistent adware infections or adware that is dropped together with malware. Because of that, adware is not considered safe and should be removed.
Remove SkyWard from Your Mac
To remove all files associated with SkyWard on a compromised Mac, we advise you to complete several removal steps. The guide below will reveal all removal steps in their precise order, including manual and automatic actions. Due to the adware’s persistence, we recommend using both approaches. Please keep in mind that you can minimize the risk of leaving harmful files behind by using the help of an advanced anti-malware tool. Such a tool will another layer of protection to your Mac.
About the SkyWard Research
The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this SkyWard how-to removal guide included, is the outcome of extensive research, hard work and our team’s devotion to help you remove the specific macOS issue.
How did we conduct the research on SkyWard?
Please note that our research is based on an independent investigation. We are in contact with independent security researchers, thanks to which we receive daily updates on the latest malware definitions, including the various types of Mac threats, especially adware and potentially unwanted apps (PUAs).
Furthermore, the research behind the SkyWard threat is backed with VirusTotal.
To better understand the threat posed by Mac malware, please refer to the following articles which provide knowledgeable details.
1. macOS More Susceptible to Adware and PUPs than Windows
2. XLoader Malware-as-a-Service Now Available for macOS for Only $49
3. XCSSET Mac Malware Targets Apple’s M1-Based Macs and macOS 11
4. macOS Backdoor Malware Linked to OceanLotus Hackers
5. The State of Apple’s Privacy So Far in 2021
Before starting to follow the steps below, be advised that you should first do the following preparations:
- Backup your files in case the worst happens.
- Make sure to have a device with these instructions on standy.
- Arm yourself with patience.
Step 1: Uninstall SkyWard 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:
2. Find Activity Monitor and double-click it:
3. In the Activity Monitor look for any suspicious processes, belonging or related to SkyWard:
4. Click on the "Go" button again, but this time select Applications. Another way is with the ⇧+⌘+A buttons.
5. In the Applications menu, look for any suspicious app or an app with a name, similar or identical to SkyWard. If you find it, right-click on the app and select “Move to Trash”.
6. Select Accounts, after which click on the Login Items preference. Your Mac will then show you a list of items that start automatically when you log in. Look for any suspicious apps identical or similar to SkyWard. Check the app you want to stop from running automatically and then select on the Minus (“-“) icon to hide it.
7. Remove any left-over files that might be related to this threat manually by following the sub-steps below:
- 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 SkyWard 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:
1. Click on "Go" and Then "Go to Folder" as shown underneath:
2. Type in "/Library/LauchAgents/" and click Ok:
3. Delete all of the virus files that have similar or the same name as SkyWard. If you believe there is no such file, do not delete anything.
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: Remove SkyWard – related extensions from Safari / Chrome / Firefox
Step 3: Scan for and remove SkyWard files from your Mac
When you are facing problems on your Mac as a result of unwanted scripts and programs such as SkyWard, 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.
Quick and Easy Mac Malware Video Removal Guide
Step 4: How to Make Your Mac Run Faster?
Mac machines maintain probably the fastest operating system out there. Still, Macs do become slow and sluggish sometimes. The video guide below examines all of the possible problems that may lead to your Mac being slower than usual as well as all of the steps that can help you to speed up your Mac.
What is SkyWard on your Mac?
The creators of such unwanted apps work with pay-per-click schemes to get your Mac to visit risky or different types of websites that may generate them funds. This is why they do not even care what types of websites show up on the ads. This makes their unwanted software indirectly risky for your MacOS.
Can my Mac get a virus?
Yes. As much as any other device, Apple computers do get viruses. Apple devices may not be a frequent target by malware authors, but rest assured that the following Apple devices can become infected with a virus:
- Mac Mini
- Macbook Air
- Macbook Pro
What are the symptoms of SkyWard on your Mac?
There are several symptoms to look for when this particular threat and also most Mac threats in general are active:
Symptom #1: Your Mac may become slow and has poor performance in general.
Symtpom #2: You have toolbars, add-ons or extensions on your web browsers that you don't remember adding.
Symptom #3: You see all types of ads, like ad-supported search results, pop-ups and redirects to randomly appear.
Symptom #4: You see installed apps on your Mac running automatically and you do not remember installing them.
Symptom #5: You see suspicious processes running in your Mac's Activity Monitor.
If you see one or more of those symptoms, then security experts reccomend that you check your Mac for viruses.
What types of Mac threats are there?
According to most malware researchers and cyber-security experts, the threats that can currently infect your Mac can be the following types:
- Rogue Antivirus programs.
- Adware and hijackers.
- Trojan horses and other spyware.
- Ransomware and screen-lockers.
- Cryptocurrency miner malware.
What to do if I have a Mac virus, like SkyWard?
Do not panic! You can easily get rid of most Mac threats by firstly isolating them and then removing them. One reccomended way to do that is by using a reputable malware removal software that can take care of the removal automatically for you. There are many Mac anti-malware apps out there that you can choose from. SpyHunter for Mac is one of the reccomended Mac anti-malware apps, that can scan for free and detect any viruses, tracking cookies and unwanted adware apps plus take care of them quickly. This saves time for manual removal that you would otherwise have to do.
How to secure my passwords and other data from SkyWard?
With few simple actions. First and foremost, it is imperative that you follow these steps:
Step 1: Find a safe computer and connect it to another network, not the one that your Mac was infected in.
Step 2: Change all of your passwords, starting from your e-mail passwords.
Step 3: Enable two-factor authentication for protection of your important accounts.
Step 4: Call your bank to change your credit card details (secret code, etc.) if you have saved your credit card for online shopping or have done online activiites with your card.
Step 5: Make sure to call your ISP (Internet provider or carrier) and ask them to change your IP address.
Step 6: Change your Wi-Fi password.
Step 7: (Optional): Make sure to scan all of the devices connected to your network for viruses and repeat these steps for them if they are affected.
Step 8: Install anti-malware software with real-time protection on every device you have.
Step 9: Try not to download software from sites you know nothing about and stay away from low-reputation websites in general.
If you follow these reccomendations, your network and Apple devices will become significantly more safe against any threats or information invasive software and be virus free and protected in the future too.
More tips you can find on our MacOS Virus section, where you can also ask any questions and comment about your Mac problems.