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Question: Audio Ads Play With No Browser Open

I have audio ads playing randomly on my computer all the time, like when all my browser windows are closed and Safari is shut down. It's not a pop-up, it's not an ad on a web page (as all windows/browsing apps can be shut down and it still happens). I get McDonalds ads, and West Virginia tourism ads, and random movie ads. What I'm trying to say is that it's completely bleeping random. They especially seem to enjoy playing at top volume while I am watching a DVD on my computer (nice to hear how awesome West Virginia is while watching Battlestar Galactica) or, even better, shouting out of my computer right as I have gotten my children to sleep at night.

I've googled it many times, and I've found a bunch of suggestions that it may be a Rootkit/bootkit kind of malware(? so says a forum commenter in response to someone's situation that sounded almost exactly like mine), but as of yet, no confirmation that this is actually the problem, and no idea of how to fix this sort of issue on a Mac (all online references to such a problem seem to be happening to people who use Windows operating systems).

It's been going on for months now, and I've hit my limit of trying to solve it on my own... Any insights?

iMac, Mac OS X (10.5.5)

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May 3, 2012 6:16 PM in response to kanga131 In response to kanga131

Please read this whole message before doing anything.

This procedure is a diagnostic test. It’s unlikely to solve your problem. Don’t be disappointed when you find that nothing has changed after you complete it.

The purpose of this exercise is to determine whether the problem is caused by third-party system modifications that load automatically at startup or login. Disconnect all wired peripherals except those needed for the test, and remove all aftermarket expansion cards. Boot in safe mode and log in to the account with the problem. The instructions provided by Apple are as follows:

  • Be sure your Mac is shut down.
  • Press the power button.
  • Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key. The Shift key should be held as soon as possible after the startup tone, but not before the tone.
  • Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple icon and the progress indicator (looks like a spinning gear).

Note: If FileVault is enabled under Mac OS X 10.7 or later, you can’t boot in safe mode.

Safe mode is much slower to boot and run than normal, and some things won’t work at all, including wireless networking on certain Macs.

The login screen appears even if you usually log in automatically. You must know your login password in order to log in. If you’ve forgotten the password, you will need to reset it before you begin.

Test while in safe mode. Same problem(s)?

After testing, reboot as usual (i.e., not in safe mode) and verify that you still have the problem. Post the results of the test.

May 3, 2012 6:16 PM

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May 4, 2012 5:46 AM in response to X423424X In response to X423424X

I'm *fairly* sure that I don't have any apps or widgets that would be playing a radio station-- I don't recall downloading anything like that, but I suppose it could be possible. It doesn't play continuously (I suppose I wasn't specific when I said "all the time"! What I meant was that they play randomly, sporadically, throughout the morning, midday and evening, and have done so for quite a while now), so it would have to be an app or widget accessing a "radio station" on and off throughout the day.

May 4, 2012 5:46 AM

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May 4, 2012 5:53 AM in response to Linc Davis In response to Linc Davis

I have tried booting in safe mode, and when I do so, I am unable to use the built-in speakers on my computer. When I try to adjust the volume on my computer, I get the volume pop-up (the transparent-ish box with the speakers and the bars underneath indicating volume level) with a circle-slash "no" sign underneath it. When I look at the "Sound" settings under the Hardware heading in System Preferences, I get a message that says that there are "No output devices found". Like I said, I use built-in speakers, so I'm not sure why the speakers would not be found, unless that's standard during Safe Mode startup.

Regardless, without having sound, I obviously cannot test to see whether or not audio ads play while in Safe Mode. There is no other indication that an ad is playing (meaning there are no visual clues that an ad is playing-- just sound. No pop-up, no screen blinking, or other random action, just audio), so not sure how I could complete the requested test.

May 4, 2012 5:53 AM

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May 4, 2012 7:37 AM in response to kanga131 In response to kanga131

Look in system preferences> Accounts, and under the Login Items tab to see what items you have loading when you log in.

If you see anything that you do not recognize or are not sure what it is, take a screen shot (cmd+shift+4) of the preferences panel and post it here.

Maybe we can identify the culprit there.

May 4, 2012 7:37 AM

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Feb 15, 2014 1:53 PM in response to kanga131 In response to kanga131

This is pretty spooky. As i add to this thread it is Feb 2014 and nothing has been added in more than a year. If anyone has solved this mystery, and still subscribed to the thread please explain what may be causing these random audio advertisements.

Feb 15, 2014 1:53 PM

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Feb 15, 2014 6:24 PM in response to rollingonchrome In response to rollingonchrome

Yes, i have narrowed it down to Chrome. It seems to occur about every hour or so. I will start keeping track of the times. The last event, i was able to close every Chrome window and the sound continued, but when i quit Chrome it stopped. So it is not associated with a visable window. Is there such a thing as an "invisable window"?

Also before the last event, i wiped all Chrome cookies.

I use an extension called Ghostery that should monitor tracking and much malware, but apparently not this.

And i use WOT (Web Of Trust) which warns against most malevant sites, but apparently not this one.

I am not certain of Ziltam's contribution. I am curious why posting stopped in this thread in May 2012 then started again now. I dont know where to go next with this. I would appreciate any other discussion found in searches.

Feb 15, 2014 6:24 PM

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Feb 15, 2014 6:30 PM in response to Ziltam In response to Ziltam

Ziltam, thank you for your post. I am not certain how to interpret it because of the grammar mistake. I think you are saying that though most people believe there are no Mac viruses, there actually are, and that we need anti-virus software. Please correct me if this is a misunderstanding.

In fact, this is not a virus technically, but rather malware coming from a previously visited website, i assume. This is not uncommon on any OS or browser. Frankly "cookies" are confusing to me. For example when this started i wiped my Safari cookies and they would immediately reappear, why, how that works, i have never understood. This may be similar.

Can you recommend specific anti-malware software?

Feb 15, 2014 6:30 PM

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Feb 15, 2014 7:26 PM in response to kanga131 In response to kanga131

Reinstall OSX. IT is a virus. Please follow these directions.

Choose Apple menu > Restart, and then hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys while the computer restarts.

If you’re not connected to the Internet, choose a network from the Wi-Fi menu in the right corner of the menu bar (in the top-right corner of the screen), or connect to Ethernet.

Select Reinstall Mac OS X, and then click Continue.

Follow the onscreen instructions. In the pane where you select a disk, select your current Mac OS X disk (in most cases, it is the only one available).

To start the installation, click Install.

Feb 15, 2014 7:26 PM

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Feb 16, 2014 5:23 AM in response to tmcdanel In response to tmcdanel

Remove any "web clipping" widgets from your Dashboard. This is a common problem when a site used by a web clipping changes and displays an ad with audio, and this will happen entirely in the background (not just when the Dashboard is open).

Contrary to what you are being told here, this is absolutely, 100% not caused by any kind of malware. There certainly is malware for the Mac, though the importance of using anti-virus software is debatable (see my Mac Malware Guide)... but in this particular case, with the described symptoms, those telling you that it is a virus are misinformed.

Feb 16, 2014 5:23 AM

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Question: Audio Ads Play With No Browser Open