There’s a growing trend of attackers utilizing tools that already exist on a device’s system instead of customizing their malware. The goal is to try as much as possible to camouflage malware to evade detection.
Mshta.exe is one attack that uses a system’s existing tools.
MsHTA is a short form name for Microsoft HTML Application. The genuine Mshta.exe file is an executable file process of the Microsoft HTML Application Host made and distributed by Microsoft Corporation. Mshta.exe executes (or runs) the Microsoft HTML Application Host. This is why the genuine Mshta.exe is not classified as a harmful software for your PC.
Mshta.exe File Information
The Microsoft HTML Application host is a Windows OS utility file responsible for executing HTA (HTML Application). Its elements, which are compatible with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, include:
- Dynamic HTML
Here is the file information of Mshta.exe:
- Developer: Microsoft Corporation
- Programs: Microsoft HTML Application (Internet Explorer/Windows Internet Explorer)
- Executable File/Process: Mshta.exe
- Operating System: Windows (Version 10/8/7/XP)
- File Type: Essential Windows System file
- Folder Location: C:\Windows\System32 folder or a subfolder of C:\ or in a subfolder of “C:\Program Files”
- Known File Size(s): Average file size is 13,312 bytes, sometimes 45,568 bytes and six more variants
Is Mshta.exe a Legitimate File?
However, the program has no visible window and no file information. The lack of file information technically makes Mshta.exe a security threat to your system.
Is Mshta.exe a Virus?
The genuine Mshta.exe is not a virus but a file component of Windows Internet Explorer.
Considering it has a .exe extension on its file name, this may imply that it can harm your device. After all, executable files are notorious for harming devices. Malware developers intentionally create malware files with the same name as Mshta.exe to camouflage the file and evade detection.
To ensure you are not running a fake Mshta.exe file, you need to scrutinize the Mshta.exe file on your PC. Check the following:
- The file location: Treat any Mshta.exe located outside /C or a /C subfolder as malware.
- File size: Treat any Mshta.exe whose file size runs into a GB as malware.
- CPU and RAM usage: Treat any Mshta.exe with a CPU usage of over 5% and RAM usage of more than 2MB as malware.
Cybersecurity researchers have identified Mshta.exe to be disguised as a Trojan horse in the C:\Windows\SysWOW64\ directory. Trojan horses are dangerous cyber threats and can mimic activities of legitimate systems. In the process of mimicking legitimate files, these entities perform malicious activities in the background, such as:
- Cryptocurrency mining, such as Bitcoin or Monero
- Keylogging and stealing sensitive and personal data
- Stealing banking information and financial credentials
- Distributing malicious applications, including ransomware
Should Mshta.exe Be Removed?
Mshta.exe is an essential file for Microsoft HTML Application Host. Removing the file can affect the function of your PC or your Internet Explorer. We do not recommend removing or terminating this legitimate process.
However, Mshta.exe might sometimes cause various problems with your PC’s Internet Explorer, especially if it is malware. In that case, you need to have it removed.
How to Remove Mshta.exe
If it is a Trojan, Mshta.exe can hide in different locations on the PC. It may be difficult for novice PC users to detect the infection manually. In fact, even for skilled computer users, tracing its location and elements might be challenging.
To remove Mshta.exe, we strongly recommend the following:
1. Use a professional anti-malware to scan the computer.
We recommend that you start with scanning your PC system using a professional anti-malware tool. This will help you identify and remove Mshta.exe and other malware hiding in your PC.
2. Uninstall Mashta.exe from Programs and Features.
Remove the Mashta.exe malware installed in your computer through Programs andFfeatures. To do so, first boot to Safe Mode, then proceed to remove Mashta.exe from your PC.
- Click the Start button.
- Select the Power option.
- Press the SHIFT key down, and click Restart.
- On the new menu, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings.
- Click Restart.
- Your computer will reboot, presenting you with a menu. Select option 4 to choose Enable Safe Mode (or option 5 to select Safe Mode with Networking if you have internet).
- Now, press Win+X.
- Click on Programs and Features (the first item on the list).
- Locate Mshta.exe on the list of apps (or any other suspicious file name).
- Right-click on the app and select Uninstall.
This should remove the malware file if it was installed on the PC system
3. Locate the Mshta.exe file’s startup location.
Revealing hidden files in your PC. If Mshta.exe is hidden, locating its startup location will help you remove it easily. To reveal hidden files:
- Open any folder (File Explorer).
- Click Organize.
- Choose “Folder and Search Options.”
- Select View.
- Select the “Show hidden files and folders” option.
- Uncheck “Hide protected operating system files” option.
- Click Apply then OK.
You should now see the Mshta.exe file and remove it from the Windows applications (as demonstrated above).
4. Run System File Checker (SFC).
Mshta.exe and other malware applications might imitate genuine PC applications and damage your PC’s Windows system files. Running the SFC utility will examine your PC’s Windows files for malware and errors, and fix damaged files.
- Press Win + Q.
- Type cmd followed by Ctrl+Shift+Enter to run Command Prompt as Admin.
- On the Command Prompt, type sfc/scannow and press Enter.
The SFC scan will identify and fix errors, and the process may take a few minutes. You should see a report on whether it found and repaired corrupted files or no malware file found.
5. Clean Mshta.exe from the windows registry.
This method is also called Disk Cleanup (regedit). It is used to get rid of corrupted system files.
- Press Win + R.
- Into the dialog box, type cleanmgr then press Enter.
- Depending on your OS (x64 or x86) version, navigate to:
- Delete the display name: [Random].
- Once done, open your File Explorer, then navigate to: %appdata% folder.
- Locate and delete the malicious executable (Mshta.exe).
Once done with all the processes, restart your PC and check if you’ve managed to remove the Mshta.exe malware process on your PC.
Apart from detecting and removing malware, you need to keep your PC system clean and free from viruses. Although Mshta.exe is an essential PC process, we recommend removing it if you identify that it is a malware or if it affects your PC’s function. Before you remove it, scrutinize the process to ensure that it is dangerous to your computer’s system.