How to get rid of a Chrome virus on your Mac
If you use Google Chrome to browse the web or to work in Google Docs, and it starts behaving erratically, or you start seeing lots of intrusive adverts, it’s likely the browser has been infected with malware.
While it’s frustrating, and sometimes alarming, it’s not necessarily harmful to your Mac. Nevertheless, it’s best to get rid of it as soon as you realize it’s there.
What kind of Chrome virus is that?
Malware can take a number of different forms:
This type of malware downloads itself to your Mac, usually in the form of a browser extension, or hidden in a file you’ve downloaded. It displays adverts in a web browser or on your desktop.
2. Pop-up windows
These are a bit like adware. Examples, like a Chrome pop-up virus, appear when you use a web browser, either on top of your current browser window, or behind it and take you to a website you haven’t chosen to go to.
This is more difficult to spot. This type of malware, or Chrome redirect virus, turns regular text on a web page into hyperlinks. If you click on one of the links, it will take you to a web page selling something, or urging you to download a file.
Spyware is often hidden in a trojan, disguised to look like a legitimate file — perhaps a movie or a software update — but when you download it, it immediately starts stealing personal data, including financial details, web pages you’ve visited, passwords, and even the keys you press on your keyboard.
How to know if Google Chrome has a virus
There are a number of signs that you have Chrome malware on your Mac.
- Chrome starts running very slowly and using up lots of processor cycles. Often, the first sign is that your Mac’s fans start running loudly when you’re not doing anything that’s processor intensive. If that happens, you can use Activity Monitor to confirm that it’s Chrome that’s stressing the CPU.
- You start seeing adverts unrelated to any site you’ve visited or search term you’ve used.
- A browser toolbar you didn’t deliberately download appears in your copy of Chrome.
- Pop-up windows appear frequently on sites that don’t normally use pop-ups.
- You discover an application in your Applications folder that you didn’t download.
How to remove adware and malware from Chrome
The easy way: Check your Mac with CleanMyMac X
CleanMyMac X by MacPaw is a tool that looks for Mac-specific viruses. This one is notarized by Apple.
The app might be able to detect adware, spyware, worms, ransomware, and other vulnerabilities and hazards. Here’s how to use it:
- Download the free version of CleanMyMac and launch the app.
- Click the Malware Removal tab.
- Click Scan.
If CleanMyMac finds something suspicious, it will offer immediate removal.
The manual way
1. Uninstall suspicious apps
Google recommends that when you discover adware or other malware, the first thing you should do is identify and get rid of any applications in your Applications folder that you suspect may be malicious.
- Open a Finder window and go to Applications.
- Look through the list of applications and identify any you didn’t download deliberately.
- If you find one, you should remove it. However, just dragging the app to the Trash won’t get rid of every trace of the application. To do that, you need to remove every file associated with the app.
How to safely remove every trace of an application
You can safely remove unwanted apps, along with their leftovers, with the help of an app we’ve mentioned above — CleanMyMac X. It knows where to look for files that are installed by apps and searches for them there, then lists them when it finds them, allowing you to easily delete them.
If you’ve already downloaded and installed CleanMyMac, start using it right away. Go to the Uninstaller module and check the box next to the app you want to delete, and click Uninstall. That’s it!
Repeat the process for every app you suspect is malware.
2. Reset Chrome settings
If you don’t find any apps in your Applications folder that look like they’re malware, or if removing them doesn’t solve the problem, the next step is to reset Chrome’s settings.
- Open a Finder window, go to Applications and launch Chrome.
- At the top right of the window, click the ‘More’ icon (three dots stacked vertically).
- At the bottom of the menu, click Settings.
- At the bottom of the browser window that opens, click Advanced.
- Scroll to the bottom again and click Reset settings.
- Read the information in the box that appears, then click Reset.
Resetting Chrome, among other things, turns off extensions. If you need to use extensions, you’ll need to turn them back on again. However, before you do, it’s a good idea to go through them and check that you intended to download them. If you find any that you didn’t intentionally download or that you no longer need, you should delete them.
3. Remove extensions or turn them on again
- In Chrome, click on the More button again.
- Click More Tools, about halfway down.
- Click Extensions.
- Look through the installed extensions. If you see any you didn’t intend to download or no longer need, click Remove.
- If you suspect it’s malware, check the Report abuse box.
- Click Remove.
To turn an extension back on again, click on the toggle switch at the bottom right-hand corner of the extension box.
How to protect Chrome from malware
1. Don't click suspicious links
Email accounts for 90% of malware out there. There will always be virus emails in your inbox, often posing as existing services like Apple or Amazon.
Always check where the link leads: Hover your mouse pointer over the link and it will display the destination address. That could be radically different from what it claims to be.
By the way, one of the most common ways that malware is disguised is as updates to Adobe Flash. Given that most websites no longer use Flash, it’s safest to remove it from your Mac altogether. That way you won’t be tempted to download a spoof update.
2. Make sure your Mac’s Firewall is turned on
You’ll find the switch in the Firewall tab in the Security&Privacy pane in System Preferences.
3. Use a non-admin account on your Mac
This tip may surprise you but most viruses need your admin privileges to be able to do any changes. How to prevent it? Simply use a non-admin account, like a standard account that has no privileges to adjust core system settings. The virus activity will be contained within those limits.
- Open System Preferences > Users & Groups.
- Click the “+” and unlock the padlock to create a new account.
4. Keep your browser up to date
Google Chrome can be set to update itself automatically, which is the safest way to do it. If you don’t want it to do that, make sure you install updates manually as soon as Chrome alerts you it’s out of date.
5. Keep macOS up to date
Apple issues security updates for the current version of macOS and for older versions. If you see one on the App Store or if macOS alerts you that an update is available, install it.
Go to Apple Menu > About this Mac > Software Updates.
6. Watch out for bogus warnings
One of the biggest scams on the internet is pop-ups telling you that your computer has a virus. If you see one, ignore it.
In addition to preventing malware, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the damage malware will do.
- Keep your personal data safe. Never store sensitive data like usernames and passwords, or credit card details as plain text. Use a password manager, which will encrypt everything.
- Back up your Mac regularly. If you use Time Machine to back up your Mac and the worst happens, you can roll back to a point just before your Mac was infected. Or you can recover individual files that have become corrupt.
Final tip: Check which apps have too wide permissions
There is a chance that a malware app will want to hijack your camera or a mic. Sometimes you don't even know that you've allowed an app to do certain things. It could happen inadvertently.
The mentioned Mac antivirus, CleanMyMac has a handy console for checking and adjusting permissions.
Run the free version of CleanMyMac (download it here)
Click on Privacy and choose Application Permissions.
This way you can grant and revoke permissions to camera, mic or other vital parts of your Mac. For example, if you believe your Chrome app has a virus, you can ban it here from using your camera.
As you can see, it’s not too difficult to remove malware from Chrome or remove adware from Chrome. However, it’s much better if you avoid download malicious code at all. If you follow the steps at the end of this article, you’ll make sure your Mac and the Chrome browser are both as safe as they can be.