How to remove VirtualCharacterSearch adware from macOS?

Also Known As: Ads by VirtualCharacterSearch
Type: Mac Virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Medium

How to remove VirtualCharacterSearch from Mac?

What is VirtualCharacterSearch?

VirtualCharacterSearch is a potentially unwanted application (PUA) which functions not only as adware but also as a browser hijacker. Therefore, it serves advertisements and changes certain browser settings to promote address of some fake search engine. Also, it may be designed to gather browsing data (and/or other information). VirtualCharacterSearch is called a PUA because in most cases users download and install such apps unknowingly. It is known that VirtualCharacterSearch is distributed through a fake installer that supposed to install Adobe Flash Player.

VirtualCharacterSearch adware

As a rule, adware generates revenue for its developers by serving various advertisements (e.g., banners, surveys, coupons, pop-up ads). Quite often ads displayed by adware are designed to promote questionable websites, in some cases they are capable of causing download and/or installation of some PUA by running certain scripts. Another problem with VirtualCharacterSearch is that it changes browser settings (address of a default search engine, homage and/or new tab) to promote address of some fake search engine. It means that users who have apps like VirtualCharacterSearch installed on a browser and/or computer are forced to visit a certain address when they enter search queries into URL bar, open a browser and/or new tab. In most cases changes made by such apps can be undone only when they are no longer installed. Additionally, VirtualCharacterSearch may be designed to collect data related to user's browsing activities. For instance, IP addresses, addresses of visited websites, entered search queries, geolocations. Nevertheless, apps of this type can be designed to collect sensitive data as well. What is worse, their developers could use collected data to generate revenue by selling it to third parties (possibly cyber criminals) or in other ways. Therefore, installation of apps like VirtualCharacterSearch may result in problems related to browsing safety, online privacy, some users may even have their identities stolen. These are the main reasons why apps like VirtualCharacterSearch should never be downloaded and installed.

Threat Summary:
Name Ads by VirtualCharacterSearch
Threat Type Adware, Mac malware, Mac virus
Detection Names Avast (MacOS:Adload-AD [Trj]), BitDefender (Gen:Variant.Adware.MAC.Rload.5), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of OSX/TrojanDownloader.Adload.AE), Kaspersky (Not-a-virus:HEUR:AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.l), Full List (VirusTotal)
Additional Information This application belongs to Adload malware family.
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.
▼ Download Combo Cleaner for Mac
To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Combo Cleaner. Limited three days free trial available.

To sum up, apps like VirtualCharacterSearch serve advertisements, promote fake search engines and can be designed to function as information tracking tools. They are useless to their users and can cause a variety of issues. Some examples of other apps like VirtualCharacterSearch are MacWebService, Consumer Opinion and TotalConsoleSearch.

How did VirtualCharacterSearch install on my computer?

As mentioned in the introduction, VirtualCharacterSearch is distributed through a fake Adobe Flash Installer. Quite often fake, third party installers are used to proliferate malicious software like ransomware, Trojans as well. Another popular way to distribute PUAs is to integrate them in download and/or installation setups of other programs as extra offers. This distribution method is known as "bundling". Typically, included apps/offers to download and/or install them are mentioned in "Advanced", "Custom" or other settings of setups. When users download and/or install programs without changing those settings, they agree with offers to download and/or install included apps as well. Sometimes unwanted downloads and/or installations can be caused by clicking deceptive advertisements. However, this applies only to ads that are designed to execute certain scripts.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

Unwanted downloads, installations can be avoided by checking download and/or installation setups for offers to download and/or install additionally included apps in their settings like "Custom", "Advanced" and declining those offers. Also, it can be achieved by downloading files, software from legitimate (official) websites and through direct links. Various Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), third party downloaders, installers, unofficial websites, etc., can be used to distribute unwanted, in some cases even malicious files, programs. Additionally, it is advised not to click advertisements that are displayed on untrustworthy, questionable websites. Those ads tend to be designed to promote other pages of this kind or even cause unwanted downloads and/or installations. All unwanted, suspicious or unknown extensions, add-ons or plug-ins that are installed on a browser should be removed. The same applies to software of this kind that is installed on the operating system. If your computer is already infected with VirtualCharacterSearch, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for macOS to automatically eliminate this adware.

Files related to the VirtualCharacterSearch adware that need to be removed:

  • ~/Library/Application Support/com.VirtualCharacterSearch/VirtualCharacterSearch
  • ~/Library/Application Support/com.VirtualCharacterSearchDaemon/VirtualCharacterSearch
  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.VirtualCharacterSearch.plist
  • ~/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.VirtualCharacterSearchDaemon.plist

IMPORTANT NOTE! Rogue setups/apps that promote the VirtualCharacterSearch adware are designed to create a new device profile. Therefore, before taking any further removal steps, perform these actions:
1) Click the "Preferences" icon in the menu bar and select "Profiles"

Remove rogue profiles designed to promote VirtualCharacterSearch (Step 1)

2) Select the "VirtualCharacterSearch" profile and delete it.

Remove rogue profiles designed to promote VirtualCharacterSearch (Step 2)

3) Perform a full system scan with Combo Cleaner anti-virus suite.

After performing these actions, you can proceed with further removal steps for this browser hijacker/adware.

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:

VirtualCharacterSearch adware removal:

Remove VirtualCharacterSearch-related 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 ads by virtualcharactersearch 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.

Ads by VirtualCharacterSearch removal from Internet browsers:

safari browser iconRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

Remove ads by virtualcharactersearch 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 ads by virtualcharactersearch 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 ads by virtualcharactersearch 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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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Ads by VirtualCharacterSearch 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 Ads by VirtualCharacterSearch on your mobile device.
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