How to eliminate Proton malware from the operating system?

Also Known As: Proton RAT
Type: Mac Virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

How to remove Proton malware from Mac?

What is the Proton malware?

Proton is the name of a malicious program, classified as a RAT (Remote Access Trojan). This type of malware is designed to enable remote access and control over an infected device. RATs are capable of allowing close to or user-level control over a machine. These trojans can have a wide variety of malignant abilities that can be used in likewise varied ways. Proton has been observed being distributed under the guise of "Symantec Malware Detector" anti-virus application. However, it is not unlikely that this RAT may be disguised as or bundled with other products, even legitimate ones with genuine Apple code-signing signatures (i.e. certificates). It must be emphasized that the Proton malware is no way associated with the actual NortonLifeLock Inc. (formerly known as Symantec).

Proton malware detections on VirusTotal

The Proton RAT is capable of executing specific commands and managing system/personal files to a certain extent. It can collect device information, e.g. hardware serial number, macOS (Mac Operating System) version, installed applications and last run terminal commands. Furthermore, during Proton's installation, whilst under the guise of the fake "Symantec Malware Detector", it requests users to provide the admin account's username and password. This malicious program also gathers information relating to browsing activity, e.g. URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries typed, browser cookies, IP addresses and geolocations. Other Proton's abilities include taking screenshots and recording video via device's webcam. However, the primary functionality of this trojan is data extraction, specifically - passwords. It can obtain these log-in credentials from Keychain Access and 1Password password managers, as well as from the GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) cryptographic software suite. Additionally, Proton can record key strokes (keylogging); this features is similarly used to target account credentials (i.e. usernames/passwords) and other sensitive data (e.g. financial information). Another functionality of this malicious program is presenting users with custom native pop-up windows, which can request specific information to be entered (e.g. banking account information, credit card details, driver’s license, etc.). To summarize, presence of Proton on systems can result in financial losses, severe privacy issues and identity theft. If it is suspected or known that the Proton RAT or other malware has already infected the system - an anti-virus must be used eliminate it immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name Proton RAT
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Mac malware, Mac virus
Detection Names Avast (MacOS:Proton-F [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.MAC.Proton.I), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of OSX/Proton.F), Kaspersky (HEUR:Backdoor.OSX.Proton.d), Full List (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Your Mac becomes slower than normal, you see unwanted pop-up ads, you are redirected to dubious websites.
Distribution methods Deceptive pop-up ads, free software installers (bundling), fake Flash Player installers, torrent file downloads.
Damage Internet browser tracking (potential privacy issues), display of unwanted ads, redirects to dubious websites, loss of private information.
Malware Removal (Mac)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your Mac with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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XCSSETGmeraTarmacNUKESPED and AppleJeus are some examples of other mac-specific malicious programs. Malware can have a broad range of functionalities, ranging from enablement of remote access/control to data-encryption for ransom purposes. However, regardless of how malicious software operates, the end-goal is the same - to generate revenue to the cyber criminals using it. Malware infections pose a serious threat to device and user safety. Therefore, it is strongly advised to remove all system infections without delay.

How did Proton infect my computer

As mentioned in the introduction, the Proton RAT is spread disguised as the "Symantec Malware Detector" anti-virus. Aside from employing the legitimate company name of "Symantec", the full-name - "Symantec Malware Detector" - does not belong to any genuine product. This fake application was distributed via now offline malicious websites, which closely mimicked the Symantec blog. At first glance, the fake blog appeared genuine, however under closer inspection - it was evidently illegitimate (e.g. legitimate SSL certificate issued not by Symantec’s own certificate authority). The blog post promoting Proton as "Symantec Malware Detector", concerned a supposedly new variant of the CoinThief malicious program and the fake anti-virus was allegedly capable of detecting and removing CoinThief. Afterwards, links to the illegitimate "Symantec" blog were heavily tweeted about in Twitter (likely, via accounts hijacked by Proton RAT). However, Proton may be promoted using different disguises and methods. In general, malware is proliferated through untrustworthy download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools, fake updates and spam campaigns. "Cracking" tools can download/install malicious software, instead of activating licensed product. Fake updaters infect systems by exploiting weaknesses of outdated products and/or by simply installing malware, rather than the updates. Spam campaigns are large-scale operations, during which thousands of scam emails are sent. These letters contain download links of infectious files and/or the files are attached to the emails. Malicious files can be in various formats (e.g. PDF and Microsoft Office documents, archive and executable files, JavaScript, etc.) and when they are executed, run or otherwise opened - the infection chain (i.e. malware download/installation) is initiated.

How to avoid malware infections?

It is recommended to research software and only download it from official and verified sources. Additionally, all products must be activated and updated using tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. Since illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party updaters are often used to proliferate malware. Suspicious and/or irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any links or attachments found in them - as that can result in a high-risk infection. To ensure device and user safety, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed. Furthermore, this software must be kept up-to-date, used to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for macOS to automatically eliminate them.

Proton malware disguised as the fake "Symantec Malware Detector" app:

Proton malware disguised as fake Symantec Malware Detector application

Instant automatic Mac malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of Mac malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
▼ DOWNLOAD Combo Cleaner for Mac By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Combo Cleaner. Limited three days free trial available.

Quick menu:

Video showing how to remove adware and browser hijackers from a Mac computer:

Potentially unwanted applications removal:

Remove potentially unwanted applications from your "Applications" folder:

mac browser hijacker removal from applications folder

Click the Finder icon. In the Finder window, select "Applications". In the applications folder, look for "MPlayerX","NicePlayer", or other suspicious applications and drag them to the Trash. After removing the potentially unwanted application(s) that cause online ads, scan your Mac for any remaining unwanted components.

Remove proton rat related files and folders:

Finder go to folder command

Click the Finder icon, from the menu bar. Choose Go, and click Go to Folder...

step1Check for adware-generated files in the /Library/LaunchAgents folder:

removing adware from launch agents folder step 1

In the Go to Folder... bar, type: /Library/LaunchAgents

removing adware from launch agents folder step 2
In the “LaunchAgents” folder, look for any recently-added suspicious files and move them to the Trash. Examples of files generated by adware - “installmac.AppRemoval.plist”, “myppes.download.plist”, “mykotlerino.ltvbit.plist”, “kuklorest.update.plist”, etc. Adware commonly installs several files with the same string.

step2Check for adware generated files in the /Library/Application Support folder:

removing adware from application support folder step 1

In the Go to Folder... bar, type: /Library/Application Support

removing adware from application support folder step 2
In the “Application Support” folder, look for any recently-added suspicious folders. For example, “MplayerX” or “NicePlayer”, and move these folders to the Trash.

step3Check for adware-generated files in the ~/Library/LaunchAgents folder:

removing adware from ~launch agents folder step 1


In the Go to Folder bar, type: ~/Library/LaunchAgents

removing adware from ~launch agents folder step 2

In the “LaunchAgents” folder, look for any recently-added suspicious files and move them to the Trash. Examples of files generated by adware - “installmac.AppRemoval.plist”, “myppes.download.plist”, “mykotlerino.ltvbit.plist”, “kuklorest.update.plist”, etc. Adware commonly installs several files with the same string.

step4Check for adware-generated files in the /Library/LaunchDaemons folder:

removing adware from launch daemons folder step 1
In the Go to Folder... bar, type: /Library/LaunchDaemons

removing adware from launch daemons folder step 2
In the “LaunchDaemons” folder, look for recently-added suspicious files. For example “com.aoudad.net-preferences.plist”, “com.myppes.net-preferences.plist”, "com.kuklorest.net-preferences.plist”, “com.avickUpd.plist”, etc., and move them to the Trash.

step 5 Scan your Mac with Combo Cleaner:

If you have followed all the steps in the correct order you Mac should be clean of infections. To be sure your system is not infected run a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus. Download it HERE. After downloading the file double click combocleaner.dmg installer, in the opened window drag and drop Combo Cleaner icon on top of the Applications icon. Now open your launchpad and click on the Combo Cleaner icon. Wait until Combo Cleaner updates it's virus definition database and click "Start Combo Scan" button.

scan-with-combo-cleaner-1

Combo Cleaner will scan your Mac for malware infections. If the antivirus scan displays "no threats found" - this means that you can continue with the removal guide, otherwise it's recommended to remove any found infections before continuing.

scan-with-combo-cleaner-2

After removing files and folders generated by the adware, continue to remove rogue extensions from your Internet browsers.

Proton RAT removal from Internet browsers:

safari browser iconRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

Remove proton rat related Safari extensions:

safari browser preferences

Open Safari browser, from the menu bar, select "Safari" and click "Preferences...".

safari extensions window

In the preferences window, select "Extensions" and look for any recently-installed suspicious extensions. When located, click the "Uninstall" button next to it/them. Note that you can safely uninstall all extensions from your Safari browser - none are crucial for normal browser operation.

  • If you continue to have problems with browser redirects and unwanted advertisements - Reset Safari.

firefox browser iconRemove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:

Remove proton rat related Mozilla Firefox add-ons:

accessing mozilla firefox add-ons

Open your Mozilla Firefox browser. At the top right corner of the screen, click the "Open Menu" (three horizontal lines) button. From the opened menu, choose "Add-ons".

removing malicious add-ons from mozilla firefox

Choose the "Extensions" tab and look for any recently-installed suspicious add-ons. When located, click the "Remove" button next to it/them. Note that you can safely uninstall all extensions from your Mozilla Firefox browser - none are crucial for normal browser operation.

  • If you continue to have problems with browser redirects and unwanted advertisements - Reset Mozilla Firefox.

chrome-browser-iconRemove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:

Remove proton rat related Google Chrome add-ons:

removing malicious google chrome extensions step 1

Open Google Chrome and click the "Chrome menu" (three horizontal lines) button located in the top-right corner of the browser window. From the drop-down menu, choose "More Tools" and select "Extensions".

removing malicious Google Chrome extensions step 2

In the "Extensions" window, look for any recently-installed suspicious add-ons. When located, click the "Trash" button next to it/them. Note that you can safely uninstall all extensions from your Google Chrome browser - none are crucial for normal browser operation.

  • If you continue to have problems with browser redirects and unwanted advertisements - Reset Google Chrome.

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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Removal Instructions in other languages
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Proton RAT QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of Proton RAT on your mobile device.
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