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How to get rid of the FlexibleSearch adware?

Also Known As: Ads by FlexibleSearch
Type: Mac Virus
Damage level: Medium

What is FlexibleSearch?

FlexibleSearch is an advertising-supported software - it generates unwanted advertisements. It is common that software of this type collects various data and (or) changes web browser settings to promote a fake search engine as well.

Users rarely download and install apps like FlexibleSearch intentionally. For this reason, they are called potentially unwanted applications (PUAs).

FlexibleSearch adware

Adware-type applications like FlexibleSearch usually generate annoying ads designed to promote questionable websites (e.g., download pages for other PUAs, various scam websites). In some cases, they generate ads designed to cause unexpected download or even installation of unwanted software.

Usually, apps like FlexibleSearch generate banners, surveys, coupons, surveys, pop-up ads, etc. In one way or another, it is highly advisable not to click ads that appear because some adware is installed on a browser or the operating system.

Furthermore, it is likely that FlexibleSearch is designed to change web browser settings such as the address of a default search engine, homepage, and (or) new tab to an address of a fake search engine. In other words, FlexibleSearch may have a functionality of a browser hijacker.

It is strongly recommended not to trust fake search engines - they could generate misleading results (include links to potentially malicious pages in their results). It is advisable to use Google, Yahoo or other legitimate search engines to browse the web.

It is worth mentioning that if a browser is affected by a browser hijacker, it may be necessary to perform manual steps to revert changes made to that browser. Instructions on how to remove PUAs are provided below.

Another reason not to have an app like FlexibleSearch (or any other adware, browser hijacker) installed is that it may be designed to collect browsing data (e.g., entered search queries, geolocations) and sensitive information (e.g., passwords, credit card details). Information collected by an app of this kind may be misused to steal identities, online accounts, make fraudulent purchases, transactions, etc.

Threat Summary:
Name Ads by FlexibleSearch
Threat Type Adware, Mac malware, Mac virus
Detection Names Avast (MacOS:Agent-OZ [Trj]), BitDefender (Trojan.MAC.Agent.KA), ESET-NOD32 (OSX/TrojanProxy.Agent.A), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Proxy.OSX.Agent.a), 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.
▼ 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 summarize, FlexibleSearch and similar applications generate revenue for their developers by displaying advertisements (or promoting fake search engines, collecting various data). More adware examples are SearchConsole, NetworkSync, and WebSearchStride.

As mentioned previously, users rarely download and install adware-type applications on purpose. Typically, apps of this type are distributed using deceptive methods (more detailed information about their distribution is provided below).

How did FlexibleSearch install on my computer?

It is common that adware is distributed by disguising its installer as the installer for other another software (e.g., the installer for Adobe Flash Player). In other words, it is popular to distribute adware (or other PUAs) through fake installers.

Another popular way to distribute apps of this type is to include them in downloaders, installers for other programs as optional offers. Users download or install PUAs together with programs when they do not decline those offers.

As a rule, unwanted offers can be deselected using "Advanced", "Manual", "Custom", or other settings (or checkboxes) that downloaders, installers containing PUAs have. It is worth mentioning that PUAs are distributed by bundling them with free programs.

Sometimes, users cause unwanted downloads, installations by clicking deceptive advertisements designed to execute certain scripts. In most cases, ads of this type appear on questionable web pages.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

Downloaders and installers that have some settings, for example, "Advanced" "Custom", "Manual", etc., or ticked checkboxes, should be examined. It is common for those downloaders, installers to be used to distribute PUAs.

Files and apps should be downloaded from official sites via direct links only. It is not recommended to use unofficial pages, third-party downloaders or installers, Peer-to-Peer networks like torrent clients, eMule, or other sources, tools to download or install any apps (or files).

Advertisements on untrustworthy, questionable we pages should not be trusted as well - it is common that by clicking those ads users open other shady websites or allows those ads to execute scripts designed to cause unwanted downloads, installations.

Unwanted, unknown, or suspicious apps (extensions, plug-ins, add-ons) installed on a web browser should be uninstalls. Software of this kind installed on the operating system should be uninstalled too. If your computer is already infected with FlexibleSearch, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for macOS to automatically eliminate 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 adware and browser hijackers from a Mac computer:

FlexibleSearch adware removal:

Remove FlexibleSearch-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 flexiblesearch 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 FlexibleSearch removal from Internet browsers:

safari browser iconRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

Remove ads by flexiblesearch 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 flexiblesearch 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 flexiblesearch 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.

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