Dangerous Downloads on Legitimate Websites & Search Engines
There are a large number of websites that provide useful reviews and what seems like easy ways to download free software. Unfortunately, these websites also sell ads and allow advertisers to use well known software as keywords in their ads. The result is users often end up with software they can’t remove from their computer instead of what they were looking for.
Here’s an example of the page you’ll get if you search the popular download site, cnet’s Download.com for WinPatrol.
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You can see WinPatrol at the bottom of the page but if you’re not paying attention you might easily click on “Start Download”. The resulting download is not something you want on your system. My laptop is currently using the add-on Web of Trust which immediately warned me something was wrong.
Not all but some of the other downloads advertising on the Download.com page are also dangerous. For instance, the link that says “Spybot – Free Download” will not take you to the real Spybot - Search & Destroy program.
Beware of Search Engine Results
Even search engines like Google and Bing are selling search ads to bogus programs using the keywords of popular legitimate programs. If you search Google for “WinPatrol” you may be tricked into clicking on a dangerous deceptive link.
While it’s marked as an “Ad” the resulting page is not what you’ll want. It has no connection to WinPatrol. The criminals behind this site “bid” Googles Adwords for the keyword “WinPatrol” when purchasing this ad. It’s also impossible for small companies like BillP Studios to purchase advertisements. When advertising space is based on bidding, it’s impossible for me to compete with companies who behave in a deceptive manner.
Again, Web of Trust warns me not to continue.
The resulting page appears to be a review of WinPatrol. Don’t be fooled!
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When you scroll down you'll find a bogus software report that claims to compare various anti-virus program. The problem is all of these programs come from the same company and most programs can not be removed until you pay an extortion fee. Even then you’ll need a real Anti-Malware program to remove them. The following is one of many programs that follow the WinPatrol review.
I didn’t dare click Free Scan but I did check Tucows and they never heard of this program. The chances that this company has a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau is, well… that’s a topic for another blog post.
So, always read the screen and know what you’re doing anytime you see a download or scan link. If you want to download a program make sure you’re on the actual company website. That way you’ll also be sure to download the most current release.
Use your voice and let search engines and download sites know you’re not happy. Forward this post to your friends or share it on Facebook. They’re making a lot of money so they can certainly afford to screen who advertises on their sites and watch for deceptive links.
Bing actually removed an ad after I contacted them about but they still need to clean up their act for other ads. I’ve written to a friend I trust at Google so perhaps I’ll see a change soon but the misuse of our WinPatrol keyword is one of many.
If you’re not sure about a filename you can always use WinPatrol to look it up. Your lifetime $29.95 purchase of WinPatrol PLUS means we don’t have to sell advertisements on the pages used to search file names. Droid users can also download our new DroidPatrol program to search for legitimate filenames.
I’m pleased to report that Google no longer allows WinPatrol to be used to allow deceptive advertisers steal users. Thank you Google.
Microsoft Windows 8.1 - Full Version
Windows 7 Professional SP1 64bit