Msascuil.exe Virus

Also Known As: msascuil.exe trojan
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Medium

What is msascuil.exe?

msascuil.exe (or MSASCuiL.exe) is a legitimate file/process, which is a part of Microsoft Windows 10. This file can be found in the "C:\Program Files\Windows Defender" folder and is part of the Windows Defender user interface. The purpose of msascuil.exe is (or was) to display the Windows Defender icon in the taskbar.

In fact, this is a legitimate file/process. Unfortunately, like most of these processes and files, the names can be used by cyber criminals to disguise malicious processes and programs.

msascuil.exe malware

"Msascuil" (Microsoft antivirus security center user interface logo or msascuil.exe) is associated with Windows Defender, an anti-virus suite created by Microsoft. This is a legitimate file/process that can be trusted, however, cyber criminals often use the names of legitimate files/processes to disguise malicious software and their processes in Task Manager.

Typically, they make minor changes to names that cannot be noticed without careful inspection. Furthermore, malicious files with similar names are usually placed in other folders, and not those designated for the original, legitimate versions. In this case, a malicious process is placed outside of the "C:\Program Files\Windows Defender" folder.

Malicious processes usually have graphical icons beside them, whereas genuine system processes do not. If the msascuil.exe (or MSASCuiL.exe) filename is used to disguise a malicious file, it should be removed immediately. It could be a trojan that might lead to serious problems relating to privacy, browsing safety, financial loss, additional infections, and so on.

The list of disguised malicious applications also includes a cyptocurrency miner called COINMINER/CoinMiner. Before taking any action, we recommend that you run a scan with the installed anti-virus or anti-spyware suite and check if it detects any threats relating to this file.

Due to mistakes in databases, however, some anti-virus or anti-spyware tools detect legitimate files as threats and then instigate removal of harmless (sometimes, important) system files. When security software detects legitimate file as threats, this is called a "false positive" result.

Fortunately, these mistakes are generally fixed quickly. In any case, before removing files, we recommend that you verify that they are placed in the correct folders and have correct names.

Threat Summary:
Name msascuil.exe trojan
Threat Type False positive, Trojan, Password-stealing virus, Banking malware, Spyware
Detection Names (COINMINER) Avast (Win64:Trojan-gen), Avira (TR/AD.CoinMiner.sjwdw), BitDefender (Gen:Variant.Ulise.36452), ESET-NOD32 (a variant of Win64/CoinMiner.OZ), Full List (VirusTotal)
Malicious Process Name(s) mscascuil, MSASCuiL.exe, mscascuil.exe
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and 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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Cyber criminals commonly disguise malware using the names of legitimate files and processes. These actions sometimes lead to 'false positive' results, thereby flagging legitimate files as threats.

Nevertheless, if there is good reason to believe that there is malicious software installed on the system (a malicious process running in the system background), it should be removed immediately. Some examples of other files that are legitimate but could be identified as threats or used to disguise malware are msfeedssync.exe, gwx.exe, and csrss.exe.

How did msascuil.exe infiltrate my computer?

There are various ways to proliferate malicious programs. Cyber criminals use spam campaigns to send emails that contain malicious files (attachments). They present these emails as official and try to trick people into opening the included files, which then download and install high-risk malware.

Some examples of attachments that they use to proliferate viruses are MS Office documents, JavaScript files, PDF documents, various executables such as .exe files, archives such as ZIP, RAR, and so on.

Another way to trick people into infecting computers is to present malicious files as legitimate using Peer-to-Peer networks, freeware or free file hosting websites, unofficial websites, various third party downloaders, and so on. If downloaded and opened, their files infect computers with malicious programs.

Fake software update tools can be used to proliferate malware. If used, these tools download/install viruses rather than updating installed programs. They might also be used to exploit outdated software bugs/flaws or other vulnerabilities. If a computer is infected with a trojan, it might cause additional damage such as downloading and installing other malicious programs.

Bear in mind that tools that supposedly allow users to bypass software activation free of charge ('cracks') are often used to proliferate malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Choose only official and trustworthy sources/websites to download software. Avoid using Peer-to-Peer networks, rogue websites, and other dubious channels mentioned above. If an email is received from a suspicious/unknown address, is irrelevant, or contains a file or link, do no not open anything.

Update installed software using implemented functions or tools provided by official software developers only, and not other, third party (fake) tools. Furthermore, installed software should be activated properly. Various third party ('cracking') tools should not be used - they are illegal and often infect computers with malicious programs.

Keep your computer safe by having a reputable anti-virus or anti-spyware suite installed and enabled. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

The msascuil.exe files detected as a threat by a number of virus engines:

msascuil.exe detected as a threat by virustotal

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 is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this 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 is an example of a suspicious program running on a 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 the 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 the "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 the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

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

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not 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 filename 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 remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the 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.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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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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