Monthly Archives: December 2017

The FIREBALL PUP, PUA, Adware or Malware Outbreak? Or just a successful Adware Campaign?

FIREBALL Adware or Malware?

The malware, called Fireball, acts as a browser-hijacker but and can be turned into a full-functioning malware downloader. Fireball is capable of executing any code on the victim machines, resulting in a wide range of actions from stealing credentials to dropping additional malware.
Fireball is spread mostly via bundling i.e. installed on victim machines alongside a wanted program, often without the user’s consent.

Our current stance is that this is a Possibly Unwanted Program (PUP) or a Possibly Unwanted Application (PUA) as it shares common traits with adware and malware. It performs questionable clickfraud like activities but it can also be uninstalled which would be very rare for malware. Once the browser is closed all activity stops as well, that makes this more of a toolbar adware type deal which typically doesn’t qualify for the full malware branding.



Malware typically requires the host to be re-imaged to completely destroy all pieces of the malware, however FIREBALL can be uninstalled….proof of adware on crack?


To remove almost any adware, follow these simple steps:

  1. Uninstall the adware by removing the application from the Programs and Features list in the Windows Control Panel.


For Mac OS users:

  1. Use the Finder to locate the Applications
  2. Drag the suspicious file to the Trash.
  3. Empty the Trash.


Note – A usable program is not always installed on the machine and therefore may not be found on the program list.


  1. Scan and clean your machine, using:
  • Anti-Malware software
  • Adware cleaner software


  1. Remove malicious Add-ons, extensions or plug-ins from your browser:
On Google Chrome:a.       Click the Chrome menu icon and select Tools > Extensions.

b.      Locate and select any suspicious Add-ons.

c.       Click the trash can icon to delete.


On Internet Explorer:a.       Click the Setting icon and select Manage Add-ons.

b.      Locate and remove any malicious Add-ons.

On Mozilla Firefox:a.       Click the Firefox menu icon and go to the Tools tab.

b.      Select Add-ons > Extensions.

A new window opens.

c.       Remove any suspicious Add-ons.

d.      Go to the Add-ons manager > Plugins.

e.      Locate and disable any malicious plugins.


On Safari:a.       Make sure the browser is active.

b.      Click the Safari tab and select preferences.

A new window opens.

c.       Select the Extensions tab.

d.      Locate and uninstall any suspicious extensions.



  1. Restore your internet browser to its default settings:
On Google Chrome:a.       Click the Chrome menu icon, and select Settings.

b.      In the On startup section, click Set Pages.

c.       Delete the malicious pages from the Startup pages list.

d.      Find the Show Home button option and select Change.

e.      In the Open this page field, delete the malicious search engine page.

f.        In the Search section, select Manage search engines.

g.       Select the malicious search engine page and remove from the list.

On Internet Explorer:a.       Select the Tools tab and then select Internet Options.

A new window opens.

b.      In the Advanced tab, select Reset.

c.       Check the Delete personal settings box.

d.      Click the Reset button.

On Mozilla Firefox:a.       Enable the browser Menu Bar by clicking the blank space near the page tabs.

b.      Click the Help tab, and go to Troubleshooting information.

A new window opens.

c.       Select Reset Firefox.

On Safari:a.       Select the Safari tab and then select Preferences.

A new window opens.

b.      In the Privacy tab, the Manage Website Data… button.

A new window opens.

c.       Click the Remove All button.


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What is the Difference between Adware and Malware FIREBALL / Elex – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!

A question I am frequently asked about is what is the difference between adware (legal software that will however overload you with ads and make money) vs. malware (crimeware to be specific). Typically there is a fine line between the two, a good example of a successful adware company is that of OpinionSpy/Marketscore which bundles its adware with legitamate software that is commonly downloaded via free download sites, the company has served up ads to its downloaders for over ten years now – you can see our article post of it here:

Analysis OSSProxy MarketScore OpinionSpy Adware/PUP/Trojan/Malware comScore vs Nielsen


You will notice that with Adware there is a key distinction, it has to include a user agreement (typically that long policy statement that you click through when installing software) and it has to be able to be removed without the use of a 3rd party program like MalwareBytes or another AV vendor. Adware will usually be hosted using friendly infrastructure like cloud services or known and trusted dedicated hosting providers such as cheap hosting providers at $1/mo like your Godaddy offer. Typically the adware is backed by a corporation or business and is hosted in a country like the United States where if they did anything illegal the domain and business would be seized.

Adware does not have a malicious incentive, it has a monetary one where it wants to generate revenue from ads, clicks or software downloads or selling your information to 3rd parties for marketing. Adware will not steal sensitive information, it may track your browsing habits which it typically does by using persistent cookies.

Malware on the other hand cannot be uninstalled from the control panel in 99.999999% of instances, the goal is to use compromised hosts and install software without the users knowledge or permission and generate revenue, steal passwords and sensitive information such as banking information or credit cards, use your internet connection for DDoS and the resale of botnets.

Infection vectors typically include malspam e-mails. exploit kits and exploitation as well as social engineering. Rarely will true malware be in a software bundle as the bundler would have to be in on the scheme. Malware infrastructure is typically the use of hacked hosts or shady infrastructure. Adware will show a running process when you run your task manager, typically malware will trojan your processes or will not allow you to kill the malware process or uninstall it.

A follow up article on the recent FIREBALL….is it malware or adware discussion will be on its way now that we have discussed the basic nature of adware and crimeware.

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