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How to remove UniversalToolSearch adware and the ads it delivers?

Also Known As: UniversalToolSearch
Type: Mac Virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Medium

How to remove UniversalToolSearch adware from Mac?

What is UniversalToolSearch?

UniversalToolSearch is an adware-type application with browser hijacker traits. It operates by delivering intrusive advertisement campaigns and promoting fake search engines by making modifications to browser settings. Additionally, adware and browser hijackers usually have data tracking abilities that are employed to collect browsing-related information. Since most users download/install UniversalToolSearch unintentionally, it is classified as a PUA (Potentially Unwanted Application). One of the methods used to distribute this app is proliferation via fake Adobe Flash Player updates. It is noteworthy that illegitimate software updaters/installers spread not only PUAs but also trojans, ransomware, and other malware.

UniversalToolSearch adware distributed via fake Flash Player updater/installer

Adware delivers pop-ups, coupons, banners, surveys, full-page, and other intrusive ads. They severely diminish the browsing experience by limiting website visibility and browsing speed. Furthermore, these adverts are considered to be dangerous. They promote various misleading, untrustworthy, rogue, deceptive/scam, compromised, and malicious sites. Intrusive advertisements can also be triggered (by being clicked on) to execute scripts designed to download/install software (e.g., PUAs) without user permission.

Browser hijackers assign fake search engine addresses as browsers' homepage, default search engine, and new tab/window URLs. Hence, with such a piece of software installed: new browser tabs/windows opened and web searches done via the URL bar - redirect to the promoted web searcher's address. Illegitimate search engines are seldom able to provide search results, so they tend to redirect (or cause redirection chains leading) to Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other genuine ones. Browser hijackers can reset any changes users attempt to make to their browsers and/or restrict/deny access to the browser settings outright. Therefore, recovering a hijacked browser is impossible without removing the software affecting it.

Most PUAs (adware and browser hijackers included) can track data. Information of interest includes: URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries typed, IP addresses, geolocations, and even personally identifiable details. What is more, PUA developers monetize this sensitive data by sharing it with and/or selling it to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals). In summary, presence of unwanted software on devices can result in system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft. To ensure device integrity and user privacy, all dubious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins must be eliminated immediately upon detection.

Threat Summary:
Name UniversalToolSearch
Threat Type Adware, Mac malware, Mac virus
Detection Names Avast (MacOS:Adload-AD [Trj]), BitDefender (Adware.MAC.AdLoad.AEP), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of OSX/TrojanDownloader.Adload.AD), 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.

LauncherSetupDefaultExplorerSubVideoTube, and AnalyzerWindow are some examples of other apps within the adware category. They appear legitimate and offer "handy" features. However, the functionalities rarely work as promised, and in most cases - they do not work at all. In fact, practically all PUAs have nonoperational features. Functionality and user safety are irrelevant as the only goal of unwanted software is to generate profit for the developers. Therefore, instead of delivering on any promises, PUAs can run intrusive advert campaigns, cause redirects, hijack browsers, and collect private data.

How did UniversalToolSearch install on my computer?

PUAs are distributed through download/installation setups of other programs. This deceptive marketing tactic of packing regular software with unwanted or malicious additions - is called "bundling". Rushed download/installation processes (e.g., skipped steps and sections, etc.) increase the risk of inadvertently allowing bundled content into the system. Intrusive advertisements are also used to proliferate PUAs. Once clicked on, the ads can execute scripts to stealthily download/install these applications. PUAs may have "official" promotional/download webpages as well.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

It is advised to research software prior to download/installation and/or purchase. Additionally, all downloads must be done from official and verified sources. Untrustworthy download channels, e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders - commonly offer harmful and/or bundled content. When downloading/installing, it is important to read terms, study available options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out from additional apps, tools, functions, etc. Intrusive adverts appear ordinary; however, they redirect to highly questionable sites (e.g., gambling, pornography, adult-dating, and so on). In case of encounters with such ads and/or redirects, the system must be inspected and all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins detected - immediately removed from it. If your computer is already infected with UniversalToolSearch, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for macOS to automatically eliminate this adware.

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

  • ~/Library/Application Support/com.UniversalToolSearch/UniversalToolSearch
  • ~/Library/Application Support/com.UniversalToolSearchDaemon/UniversalToolSearch
  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.UniversalToolSearch.plist
  • ~/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.UniversalToolSearchDaemon.plist

IMPORTANT NOTE! Rogue setups/apps that promote UniversalToolSearch 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 UniversalToolSearch (Step 1)

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

Remove rogue profiles designed to promote UniversalToolSearch (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 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 UniversalToolSearch adware using Combo Cleaner:

UniversalToolSearch adware removal:

Remove UniversalToolSearch-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 universaltoolsearch 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.

UniversalToolSearch removal from Internet browsers:

safari browser iconRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

Remove universaltoolsearch 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 universaltoolsearch 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 universaltoolsearch 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.

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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.

QR Code
UniversalToolSearch 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 UniversalToolSearch on your mobile device.
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