Malware + Security News

Another Problematic Softonic Installer Brings Adware

Posted on May 23rd, 2013 by

You may recall that Softonic recently drew much ire for a short-lived but troubling installation package that surreptitiously delivered adware to people trying to install two popular applications -  UnRarX and VLC. It looks like they're at it again.

A recent blog post on The Safe Mac drew our attention to a report of a fake Flash alert that led to a fake installer download. At the time of the report, the fake alert detected OS X browsers and delivered a Genieo installation disk image:

  • InstallGenieo.dmg (SHA256 44eae526f3ec2dd071cec4a1ff0d25bc8209a040739e62a0588dfabce476f1d6)

The fake alert currently delivers a Windows executable, regardless of browser version.

The Genieo and Softonic connection

Previous versions of the Genieo installer were opt-in, and the installer asked for a password. This most recent delivery method required neither and was clearly trying to trick users into thinking the installer was something other than it really was.

The Genieo application is written in Java. The application resources contain:

  • Installed files dynamic libraries
  • A Firefox add-on
  • A Mac helper tool
  • A Mac notification tool
  • The Java applet
  • "Partner" settings

It's within these "Partner" settings that we find some interesting information, in the most recent installer variant that's delivered by fake alert. Within this file:


We find this text:

  •  <key>partner.manifest.base.url</key>


The Java applet itself also contains references to Softonic.


Running the adware in a virtual environment confirmed traffic containing references to Softonic in URLs.


This led us to the Genieo app generator for Genieo and their list of partners. While there is no explicit reference to Softonic there, but the genTugM partner installer still points to a Genieo version that contains text referencing Softonic.

The Installer in Action

Upon running the file, the installer performs a number of notable actions:

  • gathering the user's kernel mode (32 or 64 bits) and system version
  • checking if Java is installed, and recommending to install it, as the Genieo application requires it
  • changing browser search provider
  • asking for admin privileges
  • downloading Genieo.dmg
  • downloading and installing third party products like Codec-M and Qtrax
  • reporting installation status to analytics

Once Genieo.dmg is downloaded, it installs and adds it to the Login Items so that it will be restarted at login. It also installs a Launch Agent:

  • /Library/LaunchAgents/com.genieo.engine.plist

Along with two dynamic libraries:

  • /usr/lib/libgenkit.dylib
  • /usr/lib/libgenkitsa.dylib

Libgenkit.dylib is added to OS X's global launchd configuration file:

  • /etc/launchd.conf

This dynamic library injects the second, libgenkitsa.dylib, into Safari when the browser is launched. This enables it to intercept searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo and silently redirect them to Genieo or its partner engine.

Intego VirusBarrier users with up-to-date virus definitions will detect the components of this threat as OSX/Genieo.

  • Ezequiel

    Hi Lysa,

    my name is Ezequiel Galli and I am Softonic´s Social Media Manager

    At Softonic, user security is a major concern and we will not partner with anyone who does not
    think the same way.

    We can confirm that we did an internal test
    with Genieo, but this was never tested live on our site.

    Furthermore, we have no contract signed or any agreement with Genieo and there´s no plan to
    release an installer with them currently.

    By mistake, they have left the word “Softonic” in their code but this is not a Softonic Installer.

    Many thanks for letting us clarify this

  • allan kluttz

    I had this in my downloads folder, found by intego. Recently, I had credit card information stolen. Im not sure how yet. Regardless of the application, I have a hard time believing it was from the company softonic. I believe at the most there was a data compromise. I think this is an adobe flash attack or java. Nevertheless, intego antivirus search found this when I scanned my computer.

    Backtracking…. I noticed safari said my browser flash was not updated, and to update it. I did not click it, because I happened to check my flash for updates directly (suspiciously). Nevertheless, it downloaded on its own. I did not realize this. Whats more is I did not try to download either unrarx or the other. Therefore, this may have changed slightly… I wish I kept the files (there were about 5 instances) instead of deleting it, it just worried me too much to keep it. I believe the hack has changed, because of how it was obtained, and it required no input on my behalf. Additionally, I dont think I accessed softronic website recently. I did not find the files on my computer beyond the dmg files. Nevertheless, I thank intego veeerry much.

  • allan kluttz

    My post previously didnt not show. It said I needed to verify my email. Basically I was saying I had this issue. I think this is an adobe or flash attack. I did not download it, but I noticed the issue when I scanned using intego. I did notice something coming up saying I needed to update flash. I have not been on softonic website. It put multiple instances of the trojan app. I have had my credit card data compromised. I am beginning to think this was a culprit, but im uncertain. I do not work for intego. I am just an annoyed person with this “genieo.”