In a cybercrime campaign lasting for years, threat actors ensnare Mac users with malicious apps that redirect web browsers to Yahoo without permission.
|Name||Yahoo Search virus Mac|
|Type||Browser hijacker, adware|
|URLs||search.safefinderformac.com, search.tapufind.com, searchmine.net, search.chill-tab.com, search.anysearchmanager.com, search.searchpulse.net, searchlee.com|
|Action||Browser takeover, reoccurring redirects to search.yahoo.com, system slowdown|
Being able to specify default web browsing settings is something people take for granted. It’s incredibly convenient because it saves time and makes the online experience personalized to the max. However, this mechanism doesn’t work as intended if malicious code steps in. A prolific Mac threat generically called Yahoo redirect virus can ruin the whole beauty in the blink of an eye. It reorganizes the user-assigned search settings in Safari, Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox in such a way that every keyword query via the browser’s address bar returns search.yahoo.com instead of Google or whatever provider is listed in the preferences. This scheme seems odd, given that the resulting site is trustworthy. How do crooks get mileage out of it then?
The trick is twofold. First off, Yahoo is used as a smokescreen that sidetracks the victim from shady activity going on behind the scenes. There are a handful of intermediate junk services that allow crooks to convert the entire volume of unauthorized traffic into monetary gain. These pages are intertwined with the APIs of discreditable advertising platforms, with the ties being hidden in plain sight. Every time the redirect instance occurs, the browser quietly roams through one of the following URLs:
Vigilant users will notice that the landing page address includes a YHS string, which stands for Yahoo Hosted Search. This brings us to one more facet of the conspiracy: ne’er-do-wells at the helm of it might be seeking to generate affiliate rewards that the legitimate search engine pays when receiving unique visits. This is a winning strategy for the unscrupulous online marketers because their worthless knockoff search engines on the list above have no search capability of their own. Outsourcing this feature to Yahoo while raking in profits at the same time seems like a lucrative “business opportunity”, except that it’s implemented at the expense of Mac users’ peace of mind.
No matter which spin-off of the nasty redirect threat is running amok inside the system, it is always embodied as a specific malicious app. The culprit is responsible for turning the browser preferences upside down and establishing persistence so that the victim cannot remove it in the same way they would uninstall a regular piece of software. One more apparent element of this train of thought is that the attack starts with an installation of the unwanted program, although the user is typically unaware of it. How come? One word: bundling. This fraudulent technique underlies numerous Mac malware outbreaks, obfuscating dangerous payloads amid harmless software samples.
Previously, the Adobe Flash Player update hoax was the most common carrier of the Yahoo redirect virus. Mac users would bump into pop-ups online stating that their version was obsolete and supposedly pushing a fresh build for proper web multimedia experience. The installer, though, would include a malicious app as well. Not that Flash Player support has been officially discontinued, this ruse is dwindling. Malefactors are increasingly promoting malware-tainted bundles that feature too-good-to-be-true browser extensions, streaming video downloaders, games, and cracked editions of popular Mac applications. That being said, it’s very important to exert caution with freeware installation clients these days. At the very least, users should opt out of the express setup mode that often conceals harmful items.
If you are being redirected to Yahoo when running web searches on your Mac, the issue will stick around until you find and vanquish the core app. As an extra layer of cleaning, you will need to put the affected web browser back on track by reverting to correct settings. The following paragraphs will show you how.
Remove Yahoo redirect from Mac manually
First things first, every infection instance boils down to a specific rogue app underlying it. Therefore, the starting point of the fix is to find and delete the malicious program that’s causing your Mac computer to act up. This could be easier said than done, though – some viruses are sneaky and don’t leave an obvious system footprint in an attempt to avoid detection.
The steps below will walk you through the best practices of spotting and removing Yahoo redirect virus from your Mac.
- In the Finder’s Go pull-down menu, click Utilities
- Select Activity Monitor
- Take a look at the running processes and try to identify the malicious one. Its name isn’t likely to have anything in common with Yahoo redirect, therefore you should focus on resource-intensive entries that look unfamiliar and way out of place.
- Once you spot the suspect, select it and click Stop in the upper left of the Activity Monitor screen. Follow on-screen prompts to force quit the unwanted item. Note that you may have to enter your admin password to do it
- Reopen the Go menu and click Go to Folder
- Enter the following string in the search box: /Library/LaunchAgents. Click the Go button as shown below
- Check the folder for potentially unwanted items. As is the case with malicious executables, the names of sketchy LaunchAgents may suggest no connection with Mac threats. As a general rule, look for recently created objects you don’t recognize. Send the baddies to the Trash if found
- Now you’ll need to complete the same procedure for the following directories: ~/Library/LaunchAgents, ~/Library/Application Support, and /Library/LaunchDaemons. Go to these paths in turn (see Step 6 above), inspect their contents for dubious items and folders, and eliminate them.
- Use the Go menu in your Finder again and click Applications
- Scrutinize the list of installed apps to try and locate the malicious one. This could also be a shot in the dark because the culprit isn’t going to be named Yahoo redirect or similar. Your goal is to spot a recently added fishy-looking program you didn’t wittingly install. Send it to the Trash immediately
- Click the Apple menu icon and pick System Preferences. You can as well click the gear symbol in the Dock if it’s there
- Head to Users & Groups and click Login Items. Click the padlock icon at the bottom left to enable changes – this will require your admin password. Find the app that shouldn’t be started automatically at boot time, select it, and click the ‘minus’ symbol
- When on the System Preferences screen, select Profiles. In most cases, the list will show up blank unless it’s a company-issued Mac and your employer has added a configuration profile to manage specific areas of the system. Anyway, if you see a profile that shouldn’t be there (e.g. AdminPrefs or TechSignalSearch), select it and click the ‘minus’ symbol to eradicate it
So much for the manual removal workflow. Keep in mind that most Mac threats stretch their grip over to web browsers. If this is the case, your online activities will continue to be affected and you’ll need to additionally tackle the browser side of the attack. Here’s how you do it.
Yahoo Search redirect removal in a web browser on Mac
The steps below will help you regain control of the browsing preferences hijacked by Yahoo redirect. Be advised that you may be logged out of sites and lose your web customizations as a result of this procedure. The silver lining, though, is that the malware won’t be meddling with your online sessions anymore.
Troubleshoot Safari malfunctioning
- Open Safari, expand the Safari pull-down menu, and pick Preferences
- Click Advanced and check the ‘Show Develop menu in menu bar’ box
- You’ll see the Develop menu added at the top of the screen. Click it and select Empty Caches on the list
- Expand the History entry in the Safari menu and select Clear History
- It’s best to pick all history in the follow-up screen to obliterate all malicious cookies and website data generated by the malware. Then, click Clear History
- Return to the Safari Preferences, select the Privacy section, and click the Manage Website Data button
- Click Remove All on the subsequent screen
- Finish the procedure by restarting Safari
Restore Google Chrome defaults
- Open Google Chrome, click the Customize and control Google Chrome (⁝) symbol in the upper right, and choose Settings
- Click Reset settings
- The browser will display an extra dialog so that you can familiarize yourself with the logic of the cleanup before proceeding. Go ahead and click the Reset settings button as illustrated below
- Restart Google Chrome
Fix the problem in Mozilla Firefox
- Open Firefox, click its menu icon (three horizontal lines), select Help, and click Troubleshooting Information
- Click Refresh Firefox and confirm the action
- Restart Mozilla Firefox
Remove Yahoo redirect using Combo Cleaner
Manual removal of Mac malware could be a bumpy road because you run the risk of missing small fragments of the infection, in which case all the efforts may be futile down the line. The automatic tool called Combo Cleaner eliminates this pitfall by leveraging effective detection algorithms to identify every single malicious file on your Mac. This way, Yahoo Search redirect virus removal is a matter of a few clicks and a couple of minutes’ wait. Use the following steps to give it a go.
Download and install Combo Cleaner app.
The free scanner will let you know if your Mac is infected. To remove viruses, you will have to buy the Premium version of Combo Cleaner.
- Run the tool, let it perform the virus and malware definitions update, and click Start Combo Scan
- The app is equipped with a competitive mix of security, privacy, and optimization features. Therefore, not only does it spot prevalent Mac malware but it also finds tracking cookies and unneeded files that take a lot of disk space and should be deleted
- If Combo Cleaner detects threats on your Mac, it will provide a report containing the number of these infections and the categories they fall into. At this point, all you need to do is click the Remove Selected Items button
- Having uninstalled malware from your Mac, you should redefine your web browser preferences manually if they have been previously modified by the infection without your consent.