SUPERAntispyware Found Ask Toolbar on 2017-07-02

I scanned a Windows 10 system used by a family member on July 2, 2017 with SUPERAntispyware Free Edtion, since the system was responding more slowly than I expected even for simple actions, though the system has other antivirus software on it. The first thing that SUPERAntispyware identified was the Ask Toolbar browser extension.

SUPERAntispyware - Ask Toolbar

It showed the following information for Ask Toolbar:

Ask Toolbar


When I checked on when the software was installed, I found it appeared to have been placed on the system on June 25, 2017 at 5:57 PM.

C:\>dir /s C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork
Volume in drive C is OS
Volume Serial Number is D6DD-50D8

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork

06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          .
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          Toolbar
       0 File(s)              0 bytes

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar

06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          .
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          WCL2-V7
       0 File(s)              0 bytes

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\WCL2-V7

06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          .
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          Updater
       0 File(s)              0 bytes

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\WCL2-V7\Updater

06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          .
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          Config
07/01/2017  02:38 PM    <DIR>          Response
       0 File(s)              0 bytes

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\WCL2-V7\Updater\Config

06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          .
06/25/2017  05:57 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM            55,044 ConfigV1.
       1 File(s)         55,044 bytes

Directory of C:\ProgramData\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\WCL2-V7\Updater\Response

07/01/2017  02:38 PM    <DIR>          .
07/01/2017  02:38 PM    <DIR>          ..
06/25/2017  05:57 PM               374 ResponseV1.
06/30/2017  02:38 PM               244 ResponseV1.
07/01/2017  02:38 PM               244 ResponseV1.
       3 File(s)            862 bytes

Total Files Listed:
       4 File(s)         55,906 bytes
      17 Dir(s)  219,318,169,600 bytes free


I had previously installed RegScanner, which is a free software povided by Nir Sofer of Nirsoft that provides capabilities similar to those of the regedit program that comes with the Windows operating system, but also provides additional capabilities, such as the ability to show the last time a Windows registry key was modified. RegScanner showed the HKCU\Software\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar was last modified on December 13, 2016.

RegScanner - HKCU Toolbar

Perhaps the software had been present on the system previously and was recently updated or perhaps it had been removed, but not fully removed, previously, so there had been remnants on the system when it was reinstalled on the 25th of June.

When I used RegScanner to check on the HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\APNMCP registry key, I saw a last modified timestamp of July 1, 2017 at about 8:27 PM, which corresponds to a time I had remotely logged into the system to check on the status of a backup last night.

RegScanner - HKLM APNMCP

When I double-clicked on the entry in RegScanner, it opened the Microsoft Registry Editor program, which showed me the following information for the key.

Registry Editor APNMCP

The value for ImagePath was "C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\apnmcp.exe". That file was dated November 11, 2016. The date doesn't necessarily indicate the date the program was placed on the system; it could have been placed on the system within the last few days, but have that date if that's the last time the developer updated that file.

C:\>dir "C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\apnmcp.exe"
 Volume in drive C is OS
 Volume Serial Number is D6DD-50D8

 Directory of C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar

11/09/2016  01:39 AM           201,800 apnmcp.exe
               1 File(s)        201,800 bytes
               0 Dir(s)  218,985,676,800 bytes free


When I right-clicked on the file in the Windows File Explorer and chose Properties then clicked on the Digital Signatures tab, I saw the file had been digitally signed by APN LLC.

apnmcp.exe properties

I opened a PowerShell window, which you can do on a Windows 10 system by typing powershell in the Cortana "Ask me anything" window, hitting Enter, and then clicking on Windows PowerShell, which should be returned as the best match, and used the Get-AutenticodeSignature cmdlet to get further information on the digital signature. It showed APN LLC to be a company in Oakland, California.

Windows PowerShell
Copyright (C) 2016 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

PS C:\Users\Administrator> Get-AuthenticodeSignature "C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\apnmcp.exe" | For

SignerCertificate      : [Subject]
                           CN=APN LLC, O=APN LLC, L=Oakland, S=California, C=US

                           CN=Symantec Class 3 SHA256 Code Signing CA, OU=Symantec Trust Network, O=Symantec
                         Corporation, C=US

                         [Serial Number]

                         [Not Before]
                           12/2/2015 7:00:00 PM

                         [Not After]
                           5/27/2018 7:59:59 PM


TimeStamperCertificate :
Status                 : Valid
StatusMessage          : Signature verified.
Path                   : C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar\apnmcp.exe
SignatureType          : Authenticode
IsOSBinary             : False

PS C:\Users\Administrator has its headquarters in Oakland, California, U.S. The Wikipedia article on currently notes: has been criticized for its browser toolbar, which has been accused of behaving like malware due to its bundling with other software and the difficulty of its uninstallation.

Checking on whether the file was present in a backup made with the backup program Microsoft provides with Windows 10, I did not see it present when I checked the backup from 6/18/2017, though the C:\Program Files (x86)\AskPartnerNetwork\Toolbar directory existed then. But the only file I saw in it was APNSetup.exe which had a timestamp of January 9, 2014 12:09 PM. There were an Update and WCL2-V7 subdirectories in the folder, also. But I saw the same results when I checked the backup for July 1, 2017 9:42 PM.

I had SUPERAntiSpyware uninstall the Ask Toolbar by clicking on the white circle with a red "X" in it which appeared to the right of "Ask Toolbar".

SUPERAntiSpyware - uninstall Ask

At the conclusion of the SUPERAntiSpyware scan, it had found other Potentially Unwanted Programs/Settings including Adware.ConduitVariant, PUP.ConduitVariant, PUP.MyWebSearchVariant, PUPClientConnectVariant, PUPSearchProtectVariant, and Adware.PopCapVariant.

SUPERAntiSpyware Results - 

I had it remove everything it found, including the Tracking Objects, which were 4,871 tracking cookies. After SUPERAntispyware removed everything it found, I rebooted the system.

SUPERAntispyware - Reboot

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