How to remove Mars stealer-type malware from the operating system?

Also Known As: Mars malware
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is the Mars stealer?

Mars is a piece of malicious software classified as a stealer. Malware within this classification operates by extracting content and information from infected devices. This applies to Mars as well; it can stealthily obtain a wide variety of data. Therefore, the threats posed by this malware are quite broad.

Mars malware detections on VirusTotal

Mars malware in detail

The Mars stealer is a lightweight malicious program. Hence, it does not strain the compromised OS (Operating System), which means that there are no obvious signs of infection (e.g., significant decrease in response/operation time, system crashes, etc.).

This malware collects information relating to the infected machine, including: desktop/laptop, processor model, RAM size, graphics card model, machine ID, GUID (Global Unique Identification number), OS version and architecture, device name, account username, IP address (geolocation), time zone and device time settings, OS language, keyboard alphabet layout, list of installed software products and their version, etc.

Mars stealer can also extract browsing and file download histories, Internet cookies, autofill/autocomplete data, and stored passwords from the following browsers: Google Chrome, Chromium, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and its Chromium version, Internet Explorer, Opera Stable, Opera GX, Opera Neon, Kometa, Amigo, Torch, Orbitum, Comodo Dragon, and many others.

What is more, this malicious program targets cryptocurrency browser extensions/plug-ins (e.g., TronLink, MetaMask, Binance Chain Wallet, Yoroi, Nifty Wallet, Math Wallet, Coinbase Wallet, Guarda, EQUAL Wallet, etc.) and those designed for 2FA - Two-factor authentication (e.g., Authy, EOS Authenticator, GAuth Authenticator, and Trezor Password Manager).

Cryptocurrency wallets, such as: Bitcoin Core and its derivatives (e.g., DashCore, Dogecoin, LiteCoin, Zcash, etc.), Atomic, Binance, Coinomi, Ethereum, Electrum, Electrum LTC, Electron Cash, Exodus, JAXX, and MultiDoge - are targeted by this malware as well.

Another functionality of this program is file exfiltration and infiltration. The former is the download of victims' files, and the latter is cyber criminals' file upload into the infected device. Content infiltration can be used to inject additional malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptominers, etc.) into the system.

To summarize, Mars can cause multiple system infections, severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and lead to identity theft. If it is suspected or known that Mars (or other malware) has already infiltrated the device - an anti-virus must be used to remove it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Mars malware
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Detection Names Avira (no cloud) (TR/Crypt.XPACK.Gen), Combo Cleaner (Gen:Heur.Trickbot.3), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/PSW.Agent.OMJ), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Spy.Win32.Stealer.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/Mamson.A!ac), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms 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 Fake Atomic Wallet website, 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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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Malware in general

FickerStealerMoistStealerJupyterRedLine StealerLittle Thief, HackBoss, and Xenon are some examples of malicious programs with stealer-type abilities. Malware can have various harmful functionalities, which can be in different combinations.

Popular types/abilities are: file exfiltration, data extraction, spying (e.g., taking screenshots, recording keystrokes and/or audio/video via microphones and cameras, etc.), download/installation of additional malware, data encryption and/or device screen-locking for ransom purposes (ransomware), use of system resources to mine cryptocurrency (cryptominers), and so forth.

Regardless of how malware operates, its sole aim is to generate revenue for the individuals/groups using it. System infections endanger device integrity and user safety; therefore, all threats must be eliminated immediately upon detection.

How did Mars infiltrate my computer?

At the time of research, Mars stealer was offered for sale online. Hence, how this malicious program is proliferated depends on the specific cyber criminals using it.

It is known that threat actors use a fake Atomic Wallet website to trick users into executing Mars. That website (a download button on it) downloads an archive file containing a batch file that infects computers after executing it.

In general, malicious software is commonly distributed through dubious download channels, e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting (freeware) websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (Torrent clients, eMule, Gnutella, etc.), and other third-party downloaders.

Illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fraudulent updates are prime examples of malware-spreading content. "Cracking" tools can cause infections instead of activating licensed products. Fake updaters infect systems by abusing flaws of outdated programs and/or by installing malicious software rather than the promised updates.

Spam campaigns are also used to proliferate PUAs. This term defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive/scam emails are sent. These letters have infectious files attached to them, and/or contain download links of such content.

Virulent files can be in a variety of formats, e.g., PDF and Microsoft Office documents, archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), JavaScript, and so forth. When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection process is initiated.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is advised to only use official and verified sources. Additionally, all software products must be activated/updated with functions provided by legitimate developers. Suspicious and irrelevant emails must not be opened - especially any attachments or links found in them.

To ensure device and user safety, it is crucial to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed and kept updated. This software has to be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats. If you believe that your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Screenshots of Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum:

Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 1 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 2 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 3 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 4 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 5 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 6 Mars stealer promoted on a hacker forum 7

Screenshots of Mars stealer's admin panel:

Mars stealer admin panel 1 Mars stealer admin panel 2 Mars stealer admin panel 3 Mars stealer admin panel 4 Mars stealer admin panel 5

Update 5 August 2022 - Threat actors are now using a fake Atomic Wallet website to distribute the Mars stealer. That fake website ("Download for Windows" button on it) downloads a ZIP file named "Atomic Wallet.zip". This archive file contains another file named "AtomicWallet-Setup.bat". This batch file executes PowerShell commands to infect computers with the Mars stealer.

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner 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 Combo Cleaner Antivirus 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 autoruns.zip 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 Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

My computer is infected with Mars stealer, should I format my storage device to get rid of it?

No, it is not necessary to format the storage device for that. Malware like Mars stealer can be removed without formatting.

What are the biggest issues that malware can cause?

It depends on the type of malware (different types of malware have different purposes). It can cause financial losses, data loss, decreased computer performance, further infections, loss of access to personal accounts, and other issues.

What is the purpose of Mars stealer?

Mars stealer can extract information from web browsers (for example, autofill data, saved passwords, browsing, and download history). It can also steal various crypto wallets, downloading (and uploading) files from/to a computer.

How did a malware infiltrate my computer?

Usually, malware is distributed using software cracking tools/installers for cracked software, malicious emails, fake system warning messages (and other social engineering techniques), drive-by downloads, untrustworthy sources for downloading files/programs, fake updaters. One of the ways Mars stealer is distributed is a fake Atomic Wallet website.

Will Combo Cleaner protect me from malware?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can scan the operating system, detect and eliminate almost all known malware. Computers infected with high-end malware have to be scanned using the full scan. Malware of this kind can hide deep in the operating system.

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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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