More and more people are being infected by Adware lately, especially since its creators have now expanded into the Apple universe. Adware is basically software that gets installed on your computer’s browser. In the best case scenario it causes endless popup menus to show up on every page that you open; in the worst case you are unable to browse the internet. This type of malware is often packaged together with other software installers. So if you notice that you are suddenly being bombarded with unwanted advertising and pop windows you were likely infected by software that you recently installed sometimes inadvertently.
Since Adware is not officially malware, most virus removal tools can’t detect and remove it. Luckily people have devised ways to remove it. I recently became infected with Downlite adware on a Macbook Pro and a Macbook Air and this is my story.
I am not sure exactly where my Adware came from but it was undoubtedly from some website promising free and unlimited access to TV series or movies. Endless popup menus started appearing almost instantly after I entered the site, I was not even able to enter in an alternate web address to move away from the site. In order to track down the problem and possible solutions I had to go on another computer since the “infected” one was unusable. Once I determined it was Adware, I performed some searches on it and came across “The Safe Mac” site. I must say that this is an excellent site to help keep up to date on safe Mac computing. I particularly found the Adware Removal Guide quite useful. It provides easy to read explanations of the problem, symptoms to look for to determine if you are infected and ways to remove the unwanted Adware. It also provides a link to AdwareMedic, a malware removal tool that safely removes most types of adware. If you are not comfortable with downloading and using the software and this is perfectly normal given the situation that most people visiting this site find themselves in, a manual removal method is also described.
I came across the Downlite malware on two separate occasions, once on a Macbook Pro and another time on a Macbook Air. Both times the symptoms were similar, with popup menus appearing in the browser making it unusable. In one case I was able to identify the files that the malware added to the hard drive of the computer here. There were a number of “VSearch” files located in the “/Library/Application Support” and “/Library/LaunchAgents” directories. Once these were removed to the trash I started up the computer and the browser starting operating normally. In the other case I was unable to find any trace of the offending files in the directories suggested. I ran the Adware Medic software provided on the Safe Mac site and the problem still persisted. Although it took quite a long time, I also reinstalled the operating system (OSX) still with no success. Everytime I would open the Safari browser I would come back to the same site with same annoying popups. The problem seemed to stem from the fact that the browser remembered and then opened the last infected site that I was at. I then decided to force quit the Safari application, this can done in a few ways. You can either force quit the application while you are in it by holding down the Command, Option, Shift and Escape keys for a second or two until the application closes. Another way is to bring up the “Force Quit Applications” Window by holding down the Command, Option and Escape key, you then choose the application you want to quit and click on Force Quit at the bottom of the dialogue box. Once Safari closes, you wait a few second and click to open it again. You will then be asked if you want to go to the last site you were at, definitely click No. Once Safari opened, it navigated to my home page and the adware was gone.
If you come across this problem try the solutions that worked for me they may work for you too. To avoid this problem in the future I would highly recommend avoiding download or streaming sites that do not seem to be entirely above board. As well, if you have to download software always go to the software developer’s site, do not download it from 3rd parties. There are countless stories of people downloading a “Flash Player” from a site other than the official Adobe web site and then having all types of problems later. Finally, I would recommend installing the Adware Medic removal tool. It is a fairly small file, is kept up to date to combat the latest adware and it is totally free although the developer does accept donations. If your computer is infected and it is not possible to get to the site to download the removal tool you have a couple of options. First, you can restart your computer in Safe Mode which will temporarily disable any adware. Another option is to download the software on another computer and transfer it using a flash drive or even by emailing yourself. Yet a third option is to create a second user account on your computer then download and run the removal tool using that account. Then move the file to a common folder and open your original account and run the software to remove the rest of the adware.
Let me know if you have had similar experiences in the comments section below.