How to uninstall RedDelta malware?

Also Known As: RedDelta PlugX
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

RedDelta virus removal guide

What is RedDelta?

RedDelta is the name of threat activity group targeting the Vatican and Catholic Church-related and some non-governmental organizations. Research shows that the group uses various malware variants for their attacks, one of them is a modified variant of PlugX referred to as RedDelta PlugX. Other known malware variants used in RedDelta attacks are called Cobalt Strike and Poison Ivy.

RedDelta malware

PlugX is the name of a Remote Administration Trojan (RAT). In most cases cyber criminals use malware of this type to steal sensitive information, files and/or infect computers with some other malicious software (e.g., ransomware, other types of Trojans, cryptocurrency miners). Also, PlugX can be used to log keystrokes (record keyboard input), control connected hardware (e.g., webcam, microphone) and make changes in Windows Registry. Knowing the functionality of this RAT it may be used to steal login credentials (usernames, passwords, etc.), credit car details, access sensitive documents and/or other data. Such information, data could be misused to steal personal accounts, identities, make fraudulent purchases, transactions, and for other malicious purposes. Since RedDelta group uses modified variant of PlugX, their RAT may be capable of doing even more damage. As mentioned in the introduction, this group uses not only a modified variant of PlugX but also Poison Ivy and Cobalt Strike for their attacks. Poison Ivy is another RAT with similar capabilities, Cobalt Strike is a software designed to detect system penetration vulnerabilities, although, it can be used for malicious purposes such a keystroke logging and installation of malware. If any of the PlugX variants, Poison Ivy or Cobalt Strike is already installed on the operating system, then it should be removed as soon as possible.

Threat Summary:
Name RedDelta PlugX
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, spyware.
Detection Names AVG (FileRepMalware), Comodo (TrojWare.Win32.UMal.gen@0), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win64/Agent.AFJ), Webroot (W32.Trojan.Gen), Full List (VirusTotal)
Malicious Process Name(s) Flash Helper Service (its name may vary)
Payload Modified PlugX variant, Cobalt Strike, Poison Ivy
Symptoms Remote Administration 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 Deceptive software installers, infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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More examples of malware that cyber criminals use for similar purposes are DuckRAT, LuxNET and T-RAT. As mentioned in the introduction, in most cases malware of this type is used to steal sensitive information and/or distribute other malicious software. It is common that victims are not aware that they have some RAT installed on the operating system until its too late (some damage is already done). Methods that cyber criminals use to trick users into installing various malware are described in the next paragraph.

How did RedDelta infiltrate my computer?

Research shows that one of the ways used to distribute RedDelta PlugX is to trick users into using a deceptive Adobe Flash Player installer which has nothing to do with the official, legitimate installer for the player. Although, it is now the only method that cyber criminals use to distribute malicious software. It is common that they also use malspam campaigns, unreliable file and/or software download sources, third party software updating tools or unofficial activation ('cracking') tools for that. In the first case cyber criminals send emails that have some malicious attachment or download link for a malicious file in them. Their goal is to trick recipients into opening a malicious file that is designed to install malware. Typically, they attach some malicious MS Office document, PDF document, archive file like ZIP, RAR, JavaScript file or executable file (like .exe). Examples of unreliable file and software download sources, tools are unofficial websites, freeware download websites, free file hosting pages, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule and), third party downloaders. Users who use them to download files and programs risk to download malicious files that are designed to install malware. Such channels are used to distribute malware by disguising malicious files as regular, legitimate. Fake software updating tools, if used, can either install unwanted, malicious software instead of installing updates, fixes for the installed one or to exploit bugs, flaws of outdated software that is installed on the operating system. Software 'cracking' (unofficial activation) tools are programs that supposed to illegally activate certain licensed software or operating system. However, instead of bypassing the activation those tools often infect systems with some malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Installed software must be updated (or activated) only with tools or functions that are provided by its official developers. Third party, unofficial tools can be and often are designed to install malware. Also, it is not legal to use them activate licensed software. Files and programs should not be downloaded (or installed) via third party downloaders (or installers), Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), from unofficial pages, etc. The only truly safe way to do that is to use official websites and direct download links. Irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses and contain attachments and/or website links should be carefully analyzed. It is common that such emails are used to proliferate malware. Therefore, files and links in emails should be opened only when there is no reason to suspect that it may be not safe. Additionally, a computer should be regularly scanned with a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software and detected threats removed as soon as possible. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Fake Adobe Flash Player installer used to distribute PlugX modified by RedDelta:

reddelta malware deceptive installer

RedDelta malware's process running in Task Manager as "Flash Helper Service":

reddelta malware runs as flash helper service in task manager

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes 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 Malwarebytes 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 1Download 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 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 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 Malwarebytes for Windows.

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 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.

QR Code
RedDelta PlugX 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 RedDelta PlugX on your mobile device.
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