How to get rid of PUP malware on a Mac?

PUPs are potentially unwanted programs: you do not want them on your Mac’s. PUPs, such as the PUP.Optional.Mindspark malware, act like viruses. PUPs can take over web browsers, and act as a gateway for other more serious malware and adware.

PUPs are usually downloaded on the promise that this new program will make your computer run faster. Or give your browser previously unimaginable features. Exaggerated and crazy promises are always that; crazy, and a load of lies. 

All that PUPs do is cause problems and take up Mac processing power. PUPs spam your browser with advertising and pose a serious security risk. In this article, we take a closer look at PUPs and how to save your Mac from unwanted and potentially dangerous programs. 

What can PUPs do? 

Firstly, although most people don't realize it the point of download, a PUP is a virus. Or as close to being one as possible, and most anti-virus systems will classify them as viruses to save web browser users from unwanted stress and uncertainty. 

A recent example of a PUP virus is PUP.Optional.Mindspark. Produced by IAC/InterActiveCorp, an online media company that generates revenue from advertising, it claims to provide a web browser toolbar and browser start pages that give users the chance to win money through sweepstakes and online games. 

If you've downloaded and installed this — or something similar, after seeing wild claims online that you need this browser plugin — then some of the following might sound familiar: 

  • More offers of games and advertising than you would normally see on a web browser; 
  • Adverts and popups that take over web pages and prevent you from accessing content; 
  • Popups advertising free games, free software to try, high-stakes and low-risk gambling offers; 
  • Adverts suddenly appearing when you fill out a form or enter a password. 

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Now, this is all pretty annoying, but is it dangerous? 

Potentially, yes, a PUP is putting your Mac at risk. 

If you are experiencing any of the above it means your browser has been hijacked. 

It means the PUP is a security risk. Even if it isn’t right now, it could act as a backdoor into your Mac, a way for cyber criminals to steal data, even steal passwords and other sensitive details. 

A PUP can also hijack the CPU and GPU (the processing power your Mac needs) to use your computer as part of an illegal cryptocurrency mining operation. PUP.Optional.Mindspark that we mentioned earlier is just one example of dozens of similar PUPs, browser hijackers and other low-level but potentially dangerous online viruses. 

How to remove PUP.Optional.Mindspark from Mac? 

There are two ways you can remove a PUP, such as PUP.Optional.Mindspark on a Mac. 

PUPs can be removed manually, or with a little help. 

Option 1: The quick way 

  1. Download CleanMyMac X (do this here, for free)
  2. Click on the Malware Removal tab 
  3. Let CleanMyMac X scan for viruses and unwanted programs (PUPs)
  4. Removing malware files
  5. It will alert you what it has found, so now you can safely delete them. 

Option 2: Manually 

PUPs are almost always found within the plugins section of web browsers. That is how they create new toolbars for themselves and take over browsers. To remove them, follow these steps: 

#1: Uninstall from Safari 

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences 
  2. Click on Extensions 
  3. Pick the Extension that you don't recognize to delete 
  4. Click Uninstall 
  5. Confirm that you want to Uninstall the extension 

#2: Remove from Chrome

  1. Open Chrome 
  2. Go to the Menu in your browser 
  3. Click on More Tools > Extensions 
  4. Pick the Extension that you don't recognize to delete 
  5. Click Remove 
  6. Confirm that you want to Remove the extension

#3: Remove from Firefox

  1. Open Firefox 
  2. Go to the Menu in your browser 
  3. Click on the Add-ons manager tab 
  4. Select the Extension you want to remove 
  5. Click Remove 
  6. Confirm that you want to delete it 

Now that you’ve removed the extension from your browser, you need to search through several files to clear out any trace of it.

Open Finder and choose Go > Go to Folder…

Now you can paste in the following locations on your Mac:

  • /Applications
  • /Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins
  • /Library/Internet Plug-Ins
  • /Library/LaunchAgents/
  • /Library/ScriptingAdditions/

Always be careful when looking for plugins and PUPs. How they're labeled in one folder might not always be the same in another. Also, it’s worth taking good care not to delete something important by mistake. 

Whether or not you go the manual route or download an app to help, the good news is PUPs are fairly easy to remove. Unlike other, more dangerous viruses. The problem is, you leave a PUP alone for too long and it could let the more dangerous viruses in when you aren't looking. So removing a PUP sooner rather than later is the best idea. 

There are many apps that fight potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). You may try Malwarebytes as well as CleanMyMac X. Both have a pretty solid PUP database. Here you can download a free copy of CleanMyMac X, which comes with a handy and time-saving Malware Removal tool.

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