Smoke Loader Trojan

Also Known As: SmokeLoader virus
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is Smoke Loader?

Smoke Loader is trojan-type malware used to proliferate various other viruses. Cyber criminals proliferate Smoke Loader using spam emails (malicious attachments).

Therefore, it typically infiltrates systems without users' consent. After successful infiltration, the malware performs a number of actions, such as: 1) self-updating; 2) removing all traces, and; 3) downloading other viruses.

Smoke Loader malware distributing spam email

Immediately after infiltration, Smoke Loader connects to a remote Command and Control (C&C) server to download its latest version. In addition, it modifies the creation/modification date of its executable. In doing so, Smoke Loader makes it impossible to detect this malware by checking the list of recently-modified files.

Access to this executable is also blocked, since Smoke Loader removes read/write permissions. To "disguise" its connection to the C&C server, Smoke Loader continually sends requests to legitimate URLs. The traffic is moderately encrypted. Judging on this behavior, Smoke Loader can be classed as an advanced trojan.

Smoke Loader is uses to spread a variety of other viruses (for example, XMR Miner). The behavior of the promoted malware may vary - viruses often mine cryptocurrencies, gather sensitive information, use victims' computers to send spam, etc.

  • Cryptomining software employs system resources to mine cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoins, Monero, etc.) The process takes up to 100% of hardware resources. Therefore, the system becomes unstable and virtually unusable - it can easily crash, which might lead to permanent data loss.
  • Furthermore, hardware running at its fullest capacity generates excessive heat. Within certain circumstances (high room temperatures, bad cooling systems, and so on), mining cryptocurrency can damage the hardware (it can simply overheat). Note that users receive nothing in return - all revenue goes to the cyber criminals.
  • High risk data-tracking malware typically records extremely sensitive information. The list of collected data types often includes (but it is not limited to) keystrokes, saved logins/passwords, banking information, websites visited, and even saved files.
  • Therefore, these viruses pose a significant threat to users' privacy - collected data can be used to steal their identities to perform money transfers, online purchases, etc. The presence of these viruses can lead to serious privacy issues and significant financial losses.
  • The infiltrated malware might also spread itself by using victims' identities. The viruses simply hijack web browsers (to use social networks) and other communication software (e.g., Skype) to send malicious files/URLs (spam) to all of the contacts. These files/URLs are typically disguised (for example, the malware sends them with messages such as "Check my new photo").
  • The disguise is often obvious, so these bogus messages should be easy to spot. If you have received these messages/files from your 'friends', think twice before downloading and opening them. If a message seems suspicious (especially if it is not in your native language), do not open it.

In summary, the presence of Smoke Loader trojan can lead to a number of issues and, therefore, must be eliminated immediately. If you have noticed that your computer is running slowly or there is suspicious activity (someone using your accounts, you encounter questionable files/executables, etc.), immediately scan the system with a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite.

Threat Summary:
Name SmokeLoader virus
Threat Type Trojan, Password stealing virus, Banking malware, Spyware
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), BitDefender (Gen:Variant.Symmi.67297), ESET-NOD32 (Win32/TrojanDownloader.Zurgop.CB), Kaspersky (Trojan.Win32.Sharik.xig), Full List (VirusTotal)
Payload XMR Miner, Avaddon ransomware, njRAT malware (the payload may vary). 
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate victim's computer and remain silent thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software cracks.
Damage Stolen banking information, passwords, identity theft, victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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There are a number of viruses that perform the aforementioned actions including, for example, JSMiner-C, COINMINER, Adwind, Emotet, and LokiBot.

They are developed by different cyber criminals and their behavior might also differ. They do, however, have one thing in common: all are used to generate revenue for the developers. Therefore, the presence of these viruses is extremely dangerous.

How did Smoke Loader infect my computer?

As mentioned above, Smoke Loader is distributed using spam emails. These are delivered with various MS Office documents (Word, Excel, etc.) falsely presented as job applications and other work-related documents. Once the attachment is opened, users are immediately asked to activate macros to display the content properly.

Once a macro is executed, however, the script connects to a remote IP address and infiltrates Smoke Loader into the system. Spam emails are not the only way to proliferate malware - criminals are also likely to use intrusive advertisements, fake updaters, and a deceptive marketing method called "bundling" (stealth installation of rogue programs with regular software).

How to avoid installation of malware?

To prevent this situation, be very cautious when browsing the Internet and especially when downloading/installing software. Carefully analyze each email attachment. If the file seems irrelevant or has been received from a suspicious/unrecognizable email address, do not open it and delete the email immediately.

Note that intrusive ads typically seem legitimate, since developers invest many resources into their design. Once clicked, however, they redirect to dubious websites (gambling, adult dating, pornography, and similar). These ads are often delivered by adware-type PUPs.

Therefore, if you encounter dubious redirects, immediately remove all suspicious apps and browser plug-ins. We also strongly recommend that you carefully analyze each window of the download/installation processes and opt-out of all additionally-included programs.

You are advised to download your programs from official sources only, using direct download links. Third party downloaders/installers often include rogue apps, and thus should never be used. The same applies to software updates.

Installed programs must be kept up-to-date, however, this should be achieved only through implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer. Having a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running is also paramount. The main reasons for computer infections are poor knowledge and careless behavior - the key to safety is caution.

If your computer is already infected with PUPs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them. If your computer is already infected with Smoke Loader, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Malicious MS Excel attachment asking to activate macros:

Smoke Loader trojan distributing attachment

Update June 8, 2020 - Smoke Loader trojan has been recently observed spreading Avaddon ransomware, as well as njRat malware.

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task, usually it's better to let antivirus or anti-malware programs do it automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here's an example of a suspicious program running on user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example using task manager and identified a program that looks suspicious you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1 Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button.

Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button.

In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":


manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down it full path and name. Note that some malware hides their process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage it's very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate he suspicious program you want to remove right click your mouse over it's name and choose "Delete"

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware won't run automatically on the next system startup) you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the file of the malware be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should help remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills, it's recommended to leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it's better to avoid getting infected that try to remove malware afterwards. To keep your computer safe be sure to install latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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SmokeLoader virus QR code
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