Smart Protection 2012 is a rogue anti-spyware program from the same family as Security Sphere 2012. This program is categorized as a rogue anti-spyware program because it pretends to be a legitimate security program, but is actually a program that purposely display false scan results, fake security alerts, and hijacks your computer so that you are not able to run your normal applications. Smart Protection 2012 is installed onto a computer through other viruses, hacked websites that exploit vulnerable programs on your computer, or through fake online anti-malware scanners that prompt you to install the program. When Smart Protection is installed it will create a random named folder in c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\, in XP, or C:\ProgramData, in Windows Vista and Windows 7. It will then be configured to start automatically when you login to your computer.
Once this rogue is started it will automatically pretend to scan your computer for viruses. When it has finished it will state that there are numerous infections on your computer, but will not allow you to remove any of them until you first purchase the program. The scan results for this program will not include any actual file names of the supposed infections, but rather just descriptions of the threat. It is important to understand that Smart Protection 2012 was created for one reason; to scare you into thinking that your computer is severely infected so that you will then purchase the program. With that said, you should not be alarmed by any of the scan results that this program displays.
As protection mechanism, Smart Protection 2012 will terminate any executables that you attempt to run on your computer. It does this to prevent you from running legitimate security programs that may detect and remove this infection. When you attempt to start an executable you will instead be greeted with the following false message:
Application cannot be executed. The file notepad.exe is infected.
Please activate your antivirus software.
While Smart Protection 2012 is running it will also display fake security alerts and warnings from your Windows taskbar. These alerts are designed to scare you into thinking that your computer is infected and that you should purchase the program to protect yourself. The text of these messages include:
Warning: Your computer is infected
Detected spyware infection!
Click this message to install the last update of security software...
Smart Protection 2012 Warning
Your computer is still infected with dangerous viruses. Activate antivirus protection to prevent data loss and avoid theft of your credit card details.
Click here to activate protection.
Smart Protection 2012 Warning
Intercepting programs that may compromise your privacy and harm your system have been detected on your PC.
Click here to remove them immediately with Smart Protection 2012
Just like the fake scan results, these security alerts are all false and should be ignored.
As you can see, this program was created for the sole purpose of scaring you into thinking your computer has a problem and that you should purchase Smart Protection 2012 in order to fix it. It goes without saying that you should definitely not buy Smart Protection 2012, and if you already have, please contact your credit card company and dispute the charges stating that the program is a scam and a computer virus. To remove Smart Protection 2012 and other related malware, please use the free removal guide below.
Self Help Guide
If you are uncomfortable making changes to your computer or following these steps, do not worry! Instead you can get free one-on-one help by asking in the forums.
- Print out these instructions as we may need to close every window that is
open later in the fix.
- Reboot your computer into Safe Mode with Networking. To
do this, turn your computer off and then back on and immediately when you
see anything on the screen, start tapping the F8 key on your
keyboard. Eventually you will be brought to a menu similar to the one below:
Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, select Safe Mode with Networking and press Enter on your keyboard. If you are having trouble entering safe mode, then please use the following tutorial: How to start Windows in Safe Mode
Windows will now boot into safe mode with networking and prompt you to login as a user. Please login as the same user you were previously logged in with in the normal Windows mode. Then proceed with the rest of the steps.
- It is possible that the infection you are trying to remove will not allow
you to download files on the infected computer. If this is the case, then
you will need to download the files requested in this guide on another computer
and then transfer them to the infected computer. You can transfer the files
via a CD/DVD, external drive, or USB flash drive.
- This infection may change your Windows settings to use a proxy server that
will not allow you to browse any pages on the Internet with Internet Explorer
or update security software. Regardless of the web browser you use, for these
instructions we will first need need to fix this problem so that we can download
the utilities we need to remove this infection.
Please start Internet Explorer, and when the program is open, click on the Tools menu and then select Internet Options as shown in the image below.
- You should now be in the Internet Options screen as shown in the image below.
Now click on the Connections tab as designated by the blue arrow above.
- You will now be at the Connections tab as shown by the image below.
Now click on the Lan Settings button as designated by the blue arrow above.
- You will now be at the Local Area Network (LAN) settings screen as shown
by the image below.
Under the Proxy Server section, please uncheck the checkbox labeled Use a proxy server for your LAN. Then press the OK button to close this screen. Then press the OK button to close the Internet Options screen. Now that you have disabled the proxy server you will be able to browse the web again with Internet Explorer.
- As this infection is known to be bundled with the TDSS rootkit infection, you should
also run a program that can be used to scan for this infection. Please follow
the steps in the following guide:
- When in Safe More with Networking, we must first end the processes that belong to
Smart Protection 2012
so that it does not interfere with the cleaning procedure. To do this, please
download RKill to your desktop from the following link.
RKill Download Link - (Download page will open in a new tab or browser window.)
When at the download page, click on the Download Now button labeled iExplore.exe download link. When you are prompted where to save it, please save it on your desktop.
- Once it is downloaded, double-click on the iExplore.exe
icon in order to automatically attempt to stop any processes associated with
Smart Protection 2012
and other Rogue programs. Please be patient while the program looks for various
malware programs and ends them. When it has finished, the black window will
automatically close and you can continue with the next step. If you get a
message that RKill is an infection, do not be concerned. This message is just
a fake warning given by
Smart Protection 2012
when it terminates programs that may potentially remove it. If you run into
these infections warnings that close RKill, a trick is to leave the warning
on the screen and then run RKill again. By not closing the warning, this typically
will allow you to bypass the malware trying to protect itself so that RKill
Smart Protection 2012
. So, please try running RKill until the malware is no longer running. You
will then be able to proceed with the rest of the guide. Do not reboot
your computer after running RKill as the malware programs will start again.
If you continue having problems running RKill, you can download the other renamed versions of RKill from the RKill download page. Both of these files are renamed copies of RKill, which you can try instead. Please note that the download page will open in a new browser window or tab.
- At this point you should download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, or MBAM, to scan your computer for any any infections or adware that may be present. Please download Malwarebytes from the following
location and save it to your desktop:
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Download Link (Download page will open in a new window)
- Once downloaded, close all programs and Windows on your computer, including
- Double-click on the icon on your desktop named mb3-setup-1878.1878-220.127.116.119.exe.
This will start the installation of MBAM onto your computer.
- When the installation begins, keep following the prompts in order to continue
with the installation process. Do not make any changes to default settings
and when the program has finished installing, make sure you leave Launch
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware checked. Then click on the Finish button. If MalwareBytes prompts you to reboot, please do not do so.
- MBAM will now start and you will be at the main screen as shown below.
Please click on the Scan Now button to start the scan. If there is an update available for Malwarebytes it will automatically download and install it before performing the scan.
- MBAM will now start scanning your computer for malware. This process can
take quite a while, so we suggest you do something else and periodically
check on the status of the scan to see when it is finished.
- When MBAM is finished scanning it will display a screen that displays any malware that it has detected. Please note that the infections found may be different
than what is shown in the image below due to the guide being updated for newer versions of MBAM.
You should now click on the Remove Selected button to remove all the seleted malware. MBAM will now delete all of the files and registry keys and add them to the programs quarantine. When removing the files, MBAM may require a reboot in order to remove some of them. If it displays a message stating that it needs to reboot, please allow it to do so. Once your computer has rebooted, and you are logged in, please continue with the rest of the steps.
- You can now exit the MBAM program.
- As this infection also changes your Windows HOSTS file, we want to replace
this file with the default version for your operating system. Please note
that if you or your company has added custom entries to your HOSTS file then
you will need to add them again after restoring the default HOSTS file. In
order to protect itself,
Smart Protection 2012
changes the permissions of the HOSTS file so you can't edit or delete
it. To fix these permissions please download the following batch file and
save it to your desktop:
- We now need to delete the C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\HOSTS file. Once it is deleted, download the following HOSTS file that corresponds
to your version of Windows and save it in the C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc folder. If the contents of the HOSTS file opens in your browser when you click
on a link below then right-click on the appropriate link and select Save
Target As..., if in Internet Explorer, or Save Link As..,
if in Firefox, to download the file.
Windows XP HOSTS File Download LinkYour Windows HOSTS file should now be back to the default one from when Windows was first installed.
Windows Vista HOSTS File Download Link
Windows 2003 Server HOSTS File Download Link
Windows 2008 Server HOSTS File Download Link
Windows 7 HOSTS File Download Link
- Now reboot your computer.
- After rebooting if you are still unable to access the Internet, please confirm that your browser is not configured to use a proxy by following the instructions in steps 4-7. It is not required to perform these steps in Windows Safe Mode.
- As many rogues and other malware are installed through vulnerabilities found
in out-dated and insecure programs, it is strongly suggested that you use
Secunia PSI to scan for vulnerable programs on your computer. A tutorial on
how to use Secunia PSI to scan for vulnerable programs can be found here:
How to detect vulnerable and out-dated programs using Secunia Personal Software Inspector
Your computer should now be free of the Smart Protection 2012 program. If your current anti-virus solution let this infection through, you may want to consider purchasing the PRO version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to protect against these types of threats in the future.