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Important Warning: Be Careful Downloading Open Source Apps via Search

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We’ve always been big proponents of open source software, but lately we’ve noticed a disturbing trend: open source software is being wrapped in crapware-laden installers and Google / Bing / Yahoo ads designed to trick people. Here’s the details.

If you Google (or Bing) for any number of open source applications, the first result will be an ad at the top that takes you somewhere other than the real site. Here’s just a few of the applications we’ve noticed this happening on, but there’s a ton of others.

  • Audacity
  • VLC
  • Gimp
  • MPlayer
  • 7-Zip
  • CCleaner
  • …and loads of others

Once you’ve searched for one of those, you’ll see something like this. I’ve labeled them clearly so you can see the difference:

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The same thing happens on Bing:

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And on Yahoo…

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The really disturbing problem? Google Instant makes that ad the first result. So if you accidentally hit the Enter key, you’re taken to the crapware ad page. Don’t believe me? Check out where the “cursor” is:

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Make sure to share this with everybody you know! Tweet it, post it on Facebook, and tell people.

The Crapware

If you do go to the wrong site and download the application from them, you’ll be presented with this alternate installer, which tries to install their “Updater”…

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And then you’re presented with crapware, and a confusing dialog. You’re actually supposed to hit Decline to avoid installing it, but many users are going to assume that you have to hit Accept to get through the wizard.

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So make sure you beware when downloading yourself, but especially when you tell your less-savvy friends to download open source software. Don’t just tell them to Google for it anymore – you have to actually give them the real link.

And again, make sure to share this with as many people as possible.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/14/11

Comments (132)

  1. Martin D

    Maybe you want to get your machine cleaned of spyware and crap you may have installed, because this definitely DOES NOT happen on my machine!
    http://martindoms.com/scratch/vlc-bing.PNG
    http://martindoms.com/scratch/vlc-google.PNG

    To be sure I tried in two browsers, with no ad blockers. Looks to me like you have some malware hijacking your search results.

  2. The Geek

    @Martin

    The ads don’t show up every time, and I’m sure they are geo-targeted in some way. I’ve verified the results on multiple PCs, and I can assure you that I don’t have any malware hijacking my PC.

    I mean seriously, keep in mind who you’re referring to =)

  3. Martin D

    I honestly have no idea who I’m referring to :) I found this link on Twitter, retweeted by @codinghorror (Jeff Atwood). I suppose the geotargeting could explain it, although I’m still skeptical.

  4. mfs

    Busted. Doesn’t happen in Chrome when searching on Google for me.

  5. Patrick Bisch

    I definitely get it on my machine, too. I’m confident I don’t have any malware on my machine either ;)

    http://www.patbisch.com/doc/vlc.png

  6. The Geek

    @Martin

    Judging from your IP address, you’re not in the US, which means you probably don’t see the majority of ads that people in the US do. I’ve tested this out from multiple PCs, multiple browsers, multiple locations, and it’s been going on for a while now.

  7. tridentcore

    It’s looks search engines can’t be trusted for something like this… many people take advantage for this manner… is this somekind of malware distribution tricks?

    sorry if my English is bad.

  8. Bugalugs

    I’m going to have to agree…
    I tried VLC & Audacity in Google/Bing & the first few results for each are the real deal…
    FF, Chrome & Safari on my Mac

  9. Tim

    Probably a good idea to ignore “Sponsored sites” when doing a search for software. Bing draws a nice gray box around the result you likely want and tacks “Official site” next to the result’s URL.

  10. jean-bernard breu

    bonjour et bienvenu en france

  11. Parson1122

    Did a google search with Chrome and got this site as the very first on the list. I do have AdBlock turned on though.

    http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

  12. Andreas Toth

    I tend to double-check software and their official homepages against Wikipedia but the problem is that the trend of deletionism makes this less and less viable for lesser known applications.

  13. arahman87

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1564291/crad.png
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1564291/ffad.png

    Doesn’t show up in Firefox (with ABP), but shows up in Chromium (with no Ad blocker).

    I would suggest using WOT- it can help you by putting up an warning beside suspicious links.

  14. Patrick

    type in “vlc” in http://www.google.com and it does show “crapware” listed at the top surround by yellowish border with the word “ad” on the top right hand corner. I run a multi-layer security including a UTM at the edge of my network.

  15. John

    With ad block plus enabled in firefox the crapware sites do not show up. I disabled ad block plus and the bad links showed up. Just thought I’d share that.

  16. Komander Kain

    I just tested this using Chrome, did a Google search for VLC, and the crapware site came up. Went back to the Google home page, did the same search, and the crapware site didn’t show up. All that aside, any time I do a search for any type of download, I avoid the “sponsored links” and verify the URL before even thinking of clicking one. Using the WOT extension for chrome helps avoid less desirable sites as well. Its all about smart browsing, I think that is one reason so many “non-geeks” have so much crap on their computers for use to clean off all the time.

  17. trampster

    Fortunately my operating system has a software center, all the opensource software in it is guaranteed genuine.

    Once again ubuntu (and most other linux’s) solved this problem years ago.

  18. edmenje

    I NEVER click the first link on a search results page when looking for freeware apps. I always look for a download site I trust to do my downloading from like filehippo or download.cnet.com first…and yes I have seen these types of results when searching. BTW when searching using the term “freeware” the advertised link for gofree.com’s VLC player showed up on page three of the search for me just now, as well as at the very top when searching “vlc player”. It just shows that the best antivirus is not software, but wetware.

  19. InDiSent

    Adblock ftw!!!

  20. Tim

    Ubuntu for me also….Long live Ubuntu….

  21. Steven Meer

    I definately get sponsored links poping up with google and the first 1, or 2 suggested links are like what was mentioned in this post. I spend much time cleaning adware/spyware/malware, so I think its the search engine. Through experience, I now have gotten a lot better in picking out the real bad ones. When I do start to run some of them – if they try to push their own browsers, or search engines (or don’t give a choice on using it), I back out, or remove program asap – then go through the spy/ad/mal cleaning again.
    Good post – thanks.

  22. Rich Robinson

    Excellent advice. Thanks for getting the word out.

    As much as people may not like a “one stop shop” to rely on for their downloads, I recommend sites like filehippo, sourceforge, and majorgeeks for software downloads. Although softpedia started out like these sites but now hosts all kinds of crap.

  23. zs474

    just tried. yes, plenty of crap ads in Google chrome !!!

  24. Rabbit

    @Tim: Bingo.

    @Martin, MFS, etc.: The stuff at the top (usually the first link) on any search engine (or Ebay…or Youtube…etc…etc.) is a “featured” ad. Means those people paid for the ad space…which is what it is, really. This has become a pretty universal trend (universal as in across sites/platforms, not “global”, as i have no idea what’s happening on anyone’s computer except mine here in the States).

    WARNING: OCD ANALYSIS AHEAD:

    Furthermore, this doesn’t happen with just open-source software…or necessarily anything “downloadable”. When i looked up “Paypal” and “Ebay” (chosen due to the mass quantity of advertisements associated with them) in Google, the first links are the correct sites…however, the first links are also very consumer-targeted. Both Ebay’s first and second search results in Google will land you in the same place on the homepage, but Ebay’s first search result is structured more like an advertisement which points out its Buyer Protection program.

    (took out link, just search ebay in google)

    “Paypal” in Google was the same way–both first and second results are official links to the log-in page, but the first, highlighted result acts more like an “ad” in that they take the opportunity to advertise secure payment–whereas the second link has had the same tired title for well over a decade.

    (again, just search paypal in google)

    In Yahoo search, it is the same…HOWEVER, this is where it gets a bit disturbing: If you’ll notice the first links for an “Ebay” and “Paypal” search at the Yahoo page, the first link says (highlighted and in bold) OFFICIAL SITE. But have a look at the web address given underneath for the “official” sites:

    (now do the same at the yahoo search site — make sure you go in and turn off the safe-search as well)

    1st result (supposedly “official”): www . PayPal . com
    2nd result (“unofficial”, given the above premise): www . paypal . com

    1st result (supposedly “official”): www . eBay . com
    2nd result (“unofficial”, given the above premise): www . ebay . com

    …you don’t have to be a pro user of those two sites to know that the official web addresses do not require caps anywhere in the urls. That is not however to say that the first results aren’t genuine…they are, but the resulting url has a marketing tag at the end of it–which probably just earns your browser about 15 new tracking cookies :/ If you use the *second* link (i.e. do NOT use the highlighted links at the top), your resulting url is nothing but the pure and simple original web address.

    If you go back to the links from Google, you’ll find everything is structured the same way–guess Google’s just a bit more sneaky about it as the displayed, pre-clicked link addresses look the same. But then again, Google is not making any Grand Claims about a highlighted advertisement/tracking bug being “official” either…

    Youtube started doing this as well recently. I noticed that every time i would search a band, my very first search result in You Tube would be Lady Gaga. Just so you know, the music i listen to sounds absolutely nothing like, nor is comparable in any way, shape, or form–to Lady Gaga. I guess she (or someone) paid You Tube Big Money (or something) to have her video hit the top of *everybody’s* search results…whether it makes sense or not. Examples:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nlaJ4zPbSI&feature=BFa&list=FLwjutyHyXWTc&index=88
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgxEJOi6GtA&feature=BFa&list=FLwjutyHyXWTc&index=55
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXfbnS_BybQ&feature=related

    …Huh. Seems the Tube’s tweaked things a little bit since yesterday when i was getting Lady Gaga sitting atop Coil and Rammstein playlists…

  25. Oaken

    The legitimate VLC/ CCleaner/ Audacity sites return first for me in the UK using both SRWare Iron and Firefox. In fact all results on the first page are good for both browsers. That said I’ve tweaked just about everything I know to keep the dross at bay and have strong ad/domain-list blocking in place.

  26. Antriksh

    I get, by far, the best ad result. Check it out: http://images.devs-on.net/Image/0c8Ontrb00JpxW6-Region.png

  27. fengshaun

    That’s why I use DuckDuckGo search engine. It’s the best!

  28. Mike

    The Geek is correct once again(long live the Geek). Clicked on VLC in google search and the first screenshot came up. Didn’t try it in YAHOO or BING since I don’t use them, but I’m sure the results match his. The Geek Rules!

  29. Annie B.

    Good thing we have How-To Geek, MajorGeeks and CNET downloads as resources for safe downloads.

  30. PezWitch

    This is why I like ninite.com for my free software needs. One stop shopping AND they don’t install toolbars. It’s even better now that they started a Linux page.

  31. mambus

    Banish crapware with The PC Decrapifier (Windows)

    Windows only: The PC Decrapifier removes crapware—the system-hogging, usually unwanted programs vendors stuff onto new PCs.
    [Site popularity rank: #749] lifehacker.com/#!256387/banish-crapware-with-the-pc…

  32. Matt Burris

    This is one of the reasons why I switched to DuckDuckGo in the first place. They’re known for privacy and blocking spam/ad sites. Unfortunately I ended up going back to Google because their result listing on searches wasn’t as good. I’d do a search for a common program and I’d have to scan far down the page, or even the second page, to get to the official site, whereas it’d be the first or second link on Google. I wish Google would do some sort of feature you can enable to block ad/spam sites, and then let people report them and everyone benefits from it.

  33. onedeafeye

    Probably not cool, but I’ve always used Dogpile as my search engine, and I never get stuff like you’ve shown. I’ve done the same searches as a test, using Google and Dogpile, and got results that were close enough not to make any difference to me, and apparently there actually are some advantages to Dogpile. I get Google results without Google crap.

  34. GPLv4

    People, please calm down.
    For two reasons:
    1. How-To-Geek has not really criticized open source, its some malicious people who’re doing whats not to be done.
    2. Actually, even if he did, he wouldn’t be wrong, because open source is not perfect and has a lot of flaws. In fact, very recently someone committted malware code to a chat server or something, I don’t remember correctly. Again, its okay to accept flaws, because nothing is perfect, rather than living in a delusion that open source is perfect.

    Thanks,
    From someone who doesn’t care about license, as long as technology goes forward.

  35. mark

    I got nailed by the VLC crapware link not to long ago.
    I also heard that Sourceforge was hacked not to long ago. Do you trust them anymore, I’m a little nervous about one of my favorite open source sites.
    Has anyone else heard about this.
    Thanks

  36. Philippe

    I’ve seen this crapware ads for years now (in France). This is very sad and bad for naive users.

    But what’s worse is that Instant now selects the ad first – this is as bad as if Google’s I’m Feeling Lucky would go to the advertised website: nonsense!

    Also I wonder if VLC & co can do something against that. They should if possible.

  37. durr

    Nope, still get videolan.org as first result on Google, same goes for Scroogle

    GPLv4
    – In fact, very recently someone committted malware code to a chat server or something, I don’t remember correctly. –

    If you don’t remember, then there is nothing to say. “Everything you say can and will be used against you”. OpenSource is not perfect, true, but so is ClosedSource. Still many companies such as Google, Dell, IBM, HP, Fujitsu, etc use a wide range of OpenSource solutions, such as Linux, Eclipse, Java (not 100% OSS), Tomcat, Glassfish, Geronimo and so on.

    – From someone who doesn’t care about license, as long as technology goes forward. –

    Well that is … not very smart. Only openess brings technology further. Why? One word: patents

  38. iwin32

    There is this thing called Adblock Plus.

    :)

  39. Mike The BookRaider

    I hate to be smug or anything, but I seriously scratched my head when I first read this article. Then I tilted my LCD screen back a little and realized those “search” entries were inside yellow rectangles — and thus were ads! And I realized that’s why I’d never seen them before. I’ve been using Opera (and sometimes Firefox) with ad-blocking for 4 years now. I hate to say it, because ads are what legit people like bloggers and freeware designers make their money from, but for safety on the Internet (as well as a nicer browsing experience), you _need_ to use ad-blocking.

  40. ix

    Extra data point: if I search for “vlc” from a Belgian IP I get a sponsored ad for “vlc.softdown.be” which tries to make itself look like some sort of official blog (probably from the same people above) and is localized (to dutch) but if you read the text you notice it’s actually google-translated from english.

    Google ads allow you to target based on at least language and location, so it’s not that strange that some people aren’t seeing it. I also believe that you have to pay extra to be on ALL results for a certain term, perhaps they’re only showing up x% of the time.

  41. Bobro

    first off… ‘The Geek’ and ‘Martin’ That back and forth was funny…

    second, I’m from UK and i get these, not only the one, i sometimes get the first two as these crapware!

    Third, I recomend people read what is on screen, im sick of seeing toolbars that people dont know what they are or where they came from. or explaining over the phone to someone who ‘cant see what your describing’ but only cuase their not looking at it properly…

    good article, not needed myself but worth a forward round the office i think.

    :)

  42. Eduardo

    The Windows App Store, along with a switch in the OS that only allows install software from the store in long overdue in Windows.

    My relatives call me all the time to ask for the exact URL to download something, because they can not google for them any more, and worst, in the download page, generally there are several ad banner with a download “button”. Nightmare.

  43. paul allen

    Win-DOHs!

  44. C059

    Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve noticed the same trend lately, and my built-in geek sense generally tends to overlook it and go for the proper link.

    But I can certainly see where the average user would be fooled.

  45. Col

    internet explorer and itunes are crapware of the highest order from the legit sources.

  46. TSA

    i already get blue screens and crashes so is there a solution to prevent these??

  47. grayscale

    What I do is go to sites like filehippo or cnet, then either download from there or get the official webpage (since it’s always displayed) from there

  48. Luke

    Who actually uses the sponsored ad results among us?

    Also: blekko

  49. Etienne Savard

    On Ubuntu to install VLC: apt-get install vlc

    It’s always crapware free. Definitevely a Windows problem.

  50. tapuz

    i have to agree with the geek, i have been seeing this for a long long time now, a friend explained it to me, google sells words to buyers, and they show up first, even if a diffrent site should have shown up at the top of the list.
    never checked to see if he was right or not, but it would explain the differences between countries and languages, that depending where you are, and what language your browser is using, you will get different results.

    thanks for the warning.

  51. sir_ken_g

    It’s easy to pick up such stuff one way or another. Not just through searches. After I do some up dates I go to control panel and see what new has installed. If I get anything extra – I delete it.

  52. Nick

    If the crapware is limited to those specific apps, you would be best served to just use ninite.com to download/install all of them.

  53. LH

    It’s been getting much worse, and driving me crazy. Trying to DL a trusted old freebie will lead you to so many red herrings that lately I’ve been giving up and using other apps. (And I’m one of those people who DOES give donations to the developers)

    But it’s not just Google. Even when I find a good link and save it, the next time I’m there, I’ll find more banner ads and more almost intentional misdirects. (Looking for a driver will take you even longer.)

    They get so sneaky about it – even the formerly reputable sites – you have to study every word and every little checkbox. I guess they know that most people will probably be in a hurry when looking for this stuff.

    I even got caught myself with that “McAffee Security Scan” that was sneaked into an Adobe Reader update. The check box is hidden up on the top right, where you don’t go looking for it. And that has screwed up a lot of systems.

    It’s sad.We don’t need evil legislation to destroy the web. Looks like we’re doing it ourselves with good ole fashioned greed.

  54. Juan

    I use Chrome, the search results show the crap highlighted and the word “ads”.
    Sometimes I don’t pay attention but after one or two clicks I can tell is not legit.

  55. cmcollins

    I’ve found the best place to go to get most of the freeware I need when starting fresh, or even when working on other peoples computers is http://www.ninite.com. Just click which programs you want to download, and they have several freeware programs to choose from including everything listed in this article, download the installer then walk away. It will download everything and automatically uncheck every check box so you don’t have to worry about getting un-wanted emails, or toolbars, or software. You don’t have to keep clicking next, next, next…ninite does all of that for you. So, crapware, is something I haven’t had to worry about for close to two years now.

  56. Georgia

    I use the McAfee Site Advisor in FF and IE. It keeps me from getting a questionable site.

    It’s good to know you can’t trust Google or Yahoo to monitor if the people placing ads with them are reputable.

  57. rea

    The Geek is absolutely right …. it happens on any machine I’ve ever tried, not malware laden. But it doesn’t happen if you search with Duck Duck GO – I’ve been trying it for a few days now, and it seems much cleaner. Does anyone know much about this search engine?

  58. Sean

    I use Ninite installer to install these types of apps, so I don’t even have to worry about if I’m clicking a bad link.

  59. cam2644

    I endorse arahman87 ‘s advise to use WOT.

  60. jimmyhd

    If you pay attention to the web address that shows up at the bottom of the link description, you can pretty much figure out what’s good and what isn’t. If it says something like “getfreesoftware.com/VLC”, then it’s probably crapware.

  61. Bjarnovikus

    I’ve just tried “vlc” on google and yup… I get it… Crapware in the ads window… Even localized crapware (I’m Belgian so I see Dutch Crapware sites).

    It’s a shame that there are people who want to “steal” other peoples products… But yeah, we need to live with it :(

  62. Paul Underdown

    Ditto on Luke’s comment above. Those of us that follow How-to-Geek shouldn’t ever fall for theses types of links anyway. It those that we all know that would that should be warned.

  63. Miroslav

    Use Ubuntu/Fedora/Arch/Gentoo/Any distribution and then install the software from the repository. This is the “correct” way to use open source software.

  64. paul

    OMG! Super a million thanks about this. This is really disturbing indeed.

  65. LH

    LOL…”DuckDuckGo”? My new homepage. Thanks.

    However, unlike Google, it might be a bit harder to turn “DuckDuckGo” into a verb…

  66. Judith

    This just happened to me and all my screens keep getting pop-ups called, “MS Removal Tool Firewall Alert.” I already have automatic MS security and updates. Please tell me how do I get rid of the bogus pop-ups? Thank you, Judith

  67. Anthony Maw

    that’s why you should normally use your computer with non-admin privilege account. Duh!

  68. Judith

    Anthony, why are you being such a A-hole about it?

  69. Anon

    Anyone that have a problem with the adds popping up on google search and to avoid this problem use v

    MVPS Hosts file – Blocking Parasites with a host file.
    AdBlock Plus & Element hider for AdBlock Plus to rid of the iframes or NoScript, for Firefox.

    MVPS is the biggest tool to have for my machine. Also if you know how-to, you can add a host file with adblocking to your router to block all ads for all your network machines.

  70. Don Richesin

    Thanks, Mr Geek. Again you come through. I’ve followed you now for three years.. don

  71. William

    I’ve seen this problem a lot with all windows users. The main problem is some individuals will not look before they click and end up wondering why there computer is out of whack. Thanks for the tip, I deffinately shared this with my facebook friends. Then again I don’t mind charging them, if need be, to fix there computer from time to time.

  72. dave

    Geek, I think the geo tagging theory is on the money. I’m not getting them here in Canada. These guys are smart, they know if it ain’t Hockey or Donuts it ain’t gunna sell!!

  73. Mark

    I trust Cnet for all of my downloading needs; but even here, I’m vigilant about being sure not to add anything I don’t want on my PC. http://download.cnet.com/windows/

  74. Wayne Riker

    I’ve seen this growing trend. It’s like false advertising. I’ve even used “freeware” and “open source” as keywords and get these falsely reported free downloads instead (I say false because they charge to activate).
    Also in the growing trend: can’t find the “download” button to the software. It’s buried in small print amongst larger ads made to mimic the “download” button, but take you to some other site or download that’s not even related to requested download.

  75. M Henri Day

    Geek, I performed a Google search on «vlc download» on four browsers – FF 3.6.17 and 6.0a1, Chromium 12.0.737.0 (81689), and Opera 11.10 on my 64-bit Ubuntu 10.10 laptop. In all of these the top four results originated with http://www.videolan.org. Could the discrepancy between what I see and what you saw be due to the fact that we are using different platforms ? The problem I’ve noted has been with the download rather than the search process – many of these trusted apps offer users the option to download various types of crapware (or at least what I should regard as crapware) during the download process. An unwary user is likely to wind up with a lot of superfluous toolbars and a default search engine he or she hadn’t expected on his or her computer….

    Henri

  76. NickyKV2

    I use NoScript and Adblock Plus on FF, plus a few other “don’t annoy me” utilities. I never get any ads and I know how to out-goggle google.

    On the very rare occasions when I see a program I think I might like, I compare user reviews on several reputable download sites (Cnet, for example, as Mark has said).

    I don’t use links from anywhere. I check out the product and go to the site, not use a link. I also use my own programs’ update mechanisms to update them.

    Secunia PSI is a good resource. It should be mandatory for all computers and should be pre-installed.

  77. Johan

    @ LH – just ‘duck’ it, or I ‘ducked’ it : )

  78. BallyIrish

    Thank you for the warning: if there is one site I fully trust, it is How-to Geek.

    What is also happening is that more and more programs are including other crapware craftily, with blocks already ticked, so if you are not alert you get rubbish things like Ask Toolbar and host of other stuff you do NOT want/need. More and more programs are craftily including other applications with their downloads. Like Norton, Google Chrome and a host of others that are included in hitherto clean downloads.

    If I want/need these apps, I find them and download them, but I am really irritated by the swindle that has crept into the Internet making it a minefield of unneeded and unwanted stuff. How can we stoip this trend? I am finding programs on my PC after an install I do NOT want and that I have never even heard of, let alone need. The Internet has become a swindlers paradise.

  79. Hamish51

    I’ve seen this a lot lately. I’ve been wondering if I should give up on Google, which is sometimes full of garbage. It is difficult to find a genuine site some of the time. On one occasion the first 7 options where phonies, which I sidestepped, but they were there, which I find extrmely annoying.

  80. Dutch70

    Doesn’t happen on mine, but I’m using Linux Mint-Julia at the moment, not windows. Not sure if that makes a difference.

  81. Lisa

    I was just trying to find a dentist, yet the marketing of every site I visited; discouraged my search. I was finally trying to use google, yet it seems like they all want to market every spot you go too. I have read Facebook is getting into the marketing business also. I know marketing has a new engine to attack customers, but I do not think this is the way to go. Forcing their business in front of your face, leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If they download something and you cannot get it off, there is no way I would purchase anything to do with the company!! I also, would let all my friends know about the deceptive practices going on with marketing. It is a free country, but adding to someones e-mail or even downloading something without permission is against the law!!!

  82. Lisa

    They are making searching not fun anymore. Marketing is ruining learning

  83. Tony B

    People, people. Calm down. I can’t believe that for a tech website the vast majority of you don’t understand how google makes money, and thus offers you free services. It’s not a disturbing trend, it’s what they’ve ALWAYS done to make money – to the tune of $8.58 billion last quarter. Advertisers bid on keywords like “VLC”. When you search for “VLC” their ad shows up. If you click on that ad, the advertiser pays google for that click – anywhere from $.05 to $50+. Google does a good job of policing these advertisers, and constantly disables accounts that are found to be fraudulent or distributing malicious software. If you want to be safe, DON’T CLICK THE AD. Or, if you want, click the ad but don’t accept the rest of the software that’s bundled with the product you want. It’s not that hard, and most of these companies and websites (gofreeze.com, vlc.us.com, etc) aren’t misrepresenting anything. Chill out.

  84. Tony B

    Follow up: These ads have nothing to do with your browser, or ad ware, or malware. They are on the Google/Bing/Yahoo website. If you’re not in the US you’ll probably see less of these.

  85. Morely the IT Guy

    My results match The Geek’s. I’m in the US Pacific Northwest. I use Chrome. By the way, if you aren’t using HostsFileUpdater (download it from the CNet site after you search for it), you’re open to attacks from thousands of known malicious sites. I have it in my Startup group, and check for updates on every login.

    And @Tony B – to my mind, those sites are indeed misrepresenting what they offer. Geeks know better, but Grandma and the Soccer Mom don’t. What they install is usually useless (best case) unless you pay $30 to $70 (and still useless after that, I suspect) and sometimes faulty and will damage your Windows install (common), and once in a while actively malicious.

    So tell your friends. Heck, tell your enemies, too. No point in letting the scammers profit from *anyone* is there?

  86. Simon

    that happened thank you.
    but ask my self why google shutdown the simplify media ? why google must be so diqasting?
    google doesnt must to gathering all infos of users. because of this i hate google shmugle.

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_acquires_simplify_media_to_enable_music_syn.php
    Google Acquires Simplify Media to Enable Music Syncing for Android

  87. Simon

    i hate hate this google shit

  88. avalassia

    Have a look at Tor Project……everyone.

  89. avalassia

    Correction. My email spelling

  90. Ray

    I get these crapware ads also, well if I turn off my adblocker anyway. AdBlock blocks them in Chrome :).

  91. Clarence

    Oh, for the good old days when there weren’t all the ads….. If soneone is just now discovering this, then I wonder how they could search and miss it. It’s been going on for years! (And “yes” some of the ads are in areas that have a shaded background, but some aren’t too. It does help to checked the linmk addresses out too.) Good infor! Thanks.

  92. crab

    They’re having trouble keeping up with some of Google’s changes, but the “Optimize Google” Firefox extension still lets you turn off ads and “sponsored links”.

  93. Kev

    Have to agree with the geek on this, these do show up in Firefox, IE, Opera etc. it clearly shows in the posted example that it’s a sponsored link. As opposed to being smart arses why not research how sponsored links work. They do not show up every time. This site tries to offer informaton and gets shot down in flames by people with nothing better to do or complete fantasists, who have not read the info correctly in the first place.

  94. thom

    You are so right, it is important for as many people to know about this, the better!

  95. farooq2010

    doesn’t happen every time. best possible way is to avoid the sponsored links and use a little common sense

  96. Terry Hollett

    It doesn’t show on Opera, Seamonkey and Kmelon. But does using IE and Firefox. Maybe it’s browser specific. This is from Canada.

  97. Brodiemac

    This is where two very important plug-ins come in handy; AdBlock Plus and WOT (Web of Trust). When I do the search, none of the malicious sites mentioned here are even listed. When they are listed, WOT red flagged them.

    I must mention that some of these awesome applications are by no means angels in this regard. I know a few of the ones listed ask if you want to install crap like the Yahoo toolbar. Regardless, they have to pay their expenses somehow so I can sympathize.

  98. Cindy

    This has definitely happened to me. Before I knew what happened, I was downloading a program I had
    no need of or intention of installing. Now I am more careful and go through CNET etc. for the real program. (US)

  99. Lore Freundlich

    It happened to me once with 7-ZIP. Fortunately I recognized it and aborted the download. Do you think it can happen with WAMP server? Because I downloaded it a couple of days ago and installed but it but SQL will not let me set the password for root user so now I am working without a password, of course no other person is using my PC. When I try to set password for root it prompts that the syntax has errors but I know it doesn’t and I tried numerous times.

    Somebody has some advise on this?

    (US)thanks

  100. SunCityMama

    I just checked all my search engines, and the bad sites come up on all except DOGPILE, where the official site is listed FIRST. Yay Dogpile!

  101. P.J.

    Yes, google is still the most powerful engine…but start using http://www.scroogle.org and click on the yelllow padlock. Scroogle is a ‘google scraper': Its servers take your search terms and run google for you BY PROXY in effect, and return the results to you without any ADS or TRACKING ! Your searches are run HTTPS and they purge their servers of all IP and router information within 48 hrs. It’s fast, clean and simple. If you’re searching for ‘extra ordinary items of personal or political interest’ shallwe say, scroogle.org is your best ‘cloaking device. Try it out…

  102. Susan

    I use Opera; doing a google search for CCleaner brings up one highlighted and clearly marked ” ad” entry at the top with all the rest below it being legimate sources for CCleaner. None of these has a cursor next to it; hitting enter by reflex will not go to any specific entry. I know Internet Explorer acts the same as Opera, but Firefox will automatically have the first entry selected. As fas as seeing multiple false entries- I have never seen this on my computers; I’m not sure why, unless it’s because I am a Canadian user.

  103. Olde Geeke

    And people wonder why hackers take such delight in DDOS attacks on some of these sites. Too bad there isn’t a button to click that would set off a small nuclear charge in the rear ends of those responsible.

    But then I believe we should :go Muslim” on the jerks that wirte malware/viruses. Chop off both hands as a warning, next time it’s their eyes. After that, they have a fine dining experience–their own genitalia, served with fava beans and a nice chianti…hissssssss

  104. tommy2rs

    Got the ad on Chrome, Opera, and Safari. I even have the adblock plus extension Chrome. Only Firefox gave clean,totally ad-free results. This was using Google. Not even for testing purposes will I use Bing (or IE).

    Having said that the old Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeball still remains your best bet. Read first, press buttons later. Failure to do so results in PEBKAC and I D 10 T errors. And being ridiculed by the IT Crowd.

  105. JNHN

    I agree with Tony B that the vast majority in the world does not understand how Corporate America makes money. Use common sence in decision making about your computer components and live with it. OKAY!

  106. Carol

    No matter what I search for, I never click on the “Suggested Sites” because they are always paid ads and rarely relevant to what I am searching for. It just makes sense not to click on them when I’m searching for something to download onto my computer and I’m definitely not a geek. I just learned a long time ago that if someone is paying to make their site come up first, they probably aren’t what I am looking for.

  107. Graybe

    The article is correct there is a known issue with numerous searches for open source software, it is easy to re-package and re-distribute. Virtually every browser may display an iffy version as it is not browser dependent. So double check where you are downloading your software from. I am suspicious of who re-packages this software as some ask for money to clean up your system by buying a product which is a another con. Some seem to be just plain annoying and nothing more then there is the downright dangerous which range from proving access to your PC for DOS attacks or trying to get personal data. In the last couple of months we have seen a marked increase of PC’s infected or needing attention in the workshop and that is in the corporate field… privately the number of users who make the mistake has trebled, it is a passing trend which will evolve so be very aware!

  108. ImSpankyDammit

    I got the crapware through Google in Firefox and I just scanned my machine this morning with Norton, Malwarebytes & Spybot.

  109. ocalabarry

    There is a new program called Qualys Browsercheck for updating plug-ins for your browser. Every update has crapware attached. what a rip

  110. bruski

    I really never made that connection, until now. I will be telling all my not so tech savvy friends about this; seeing I’m the clean-up guy when all goes splat.

  111. JupiterIsBig

    My mother was in tears on Saturday – She said “I just want to find XYZ” – I had to try to explain how to think about the results of the search you make, because there are lots of clever people out there trying to trick you into going to their sutes and buy their products, or worse.

  112. TDK

    Adblock Plus is thee answer to your problems. It’s on Firefox and Chrome [extensions/add-ons] it also helps prevent viruses. Like when you *click* on those “You’re the 100,000th visitor” blah- and others it also helps load your pages faster [because ads are blocked] it’s awesome along with Chrome of course Firefox is ok as well, but I love Chrome.

  113. Lynn J.

    this has happened to me on both my pcs when trying to download vlc. luckily i knew to go to the official site but not every always knows that. they do trick you. i checked out multiple sites for “vlc” and found different versions of vlc, diff programs wanting to be added on. the geek is correct!

  114. jummy

    i didn’t try this but i know it happens a lot. and i am not in the US. whenever the download becomes complicated (unnecessary downloaders, as you mentioned) i know that the software is rigged.

  115. cmo999

    Yup, I’ve been noticing this same thing for a long time too and I live in Canada. I was trying to search for a particular driver, and I kept getting this software that claims it will update all of your drivers and then asks for money. I was a little disappointed that Google (what I thought was a reputable company) would sponsor such a crappy marketing scheme.

  116. 2Φ3Σ27Φ (\)λ√λ22Φ.·.

    Is there any way to stop them? as in some kind of legal action…

  117. sam

    I am not getting crapware search results for these software but I am in debian, I get them from repositories when they are available.

  118. Gary

    Seems to be a windows pc thing. I tried on my hackintosh and my ad versions were off to the side bar on the right.

  119. Savio

    You can opt out of google ads.

    Just follow the link

    http://www.google.co.in/intl/en/privacy/ads/

  120. Bryan

    I am using FF on windows 7 in canada, and with ad blocker disabled i get the crapware ads, but with it enabled they do not appear

  121. The Unspoken

    This happen to me the other day downloading VLC. I was in a hurry and snagged the first one, I was so pissed. Now there is some crapware on my netbook I have to get rid of.

  122. Kris Jack

    Lets all start clicking these ads when we see them because they are Pay-Per Click. It won’t be cost effective for these booger eaters to keep doing this.

  123. Samuel Hay Dighan

    lol, suggest installing AdBlockPlus Firefox plugin. However I realize how suspect that sounds :P
    Might as well add, “FREE!!!!!111! Totallie Lejit!!1″.

  124. IUZGNU

    Geek is right !!
    I also use Linux, and that phenomena is also happening in France, (also with loads of downloads, known to be good pieces of freeware ). In fact I never fall in this kind of traps myself, but most of my friends, family and neighborhood do.
    Google offers places for advertising to anyone that pays, no checking is done at all, and as it is knonw to be a great search engine, people rely on the results, “the first answer must be the right one” they think… again a matter of money and profit. Such a shame to see the internet becoming such a unsafe place… And that’s not much compared to identity/money theft and so on …
    Try WOT (Web of Trust add-on for browsers FF, Googlechrome, chromium), it is quite OK for preventing most of this.
    Cheers

  125. sandeep tony

    Recently I’ve recieved few Emails to download AVG FREE , OpenOffice , Limewire and Google earth
    the format of these email is easy to understand ,anyone who using these Open GL sw can figure out from a Mile that ,this is fake
    this case is different but it is true.

  126. vilma

    I’ve always noticed those crap wares but I never downloaded them because they look suspicious. Ha ha, crap ware, what a great name.

  127. Chris

    Hello to all!

    Guys give freeware developer a chance to earn some money! Read some adds or take a look on a suggested application won’t kill you!!!

    Its way better to do that, than to spend few hundred bugs on buying software, don’t you guys think?

    i personally don’t like adds, but if i get something for “free” , well at least i will not complain on watching some adds or take a look on a suggested app, if i don’t like it, i will uninstall it!

  128. Alexander

    Watch from where you download free versions, always download from product’s official website.

    If you don’t like it buy full version!

  129. tibis

    Dear,
    and who is sponzored Google ????? OF COURSE, HACKERS!!!!!!

  130. Alejandro

    Today it’s not easy having Windows if you want programs not coming with it. In contrast to Linux where everything, including VLC and the examples mentioned here, comes with it, and get installed from a secure source that way.

    For Windows you should check the download area of your ISP, whom you trust (or should ;-) and get programs from there.

  131. Chris

    Everyone who reads this (who has property computer security knowledge) *should* click on those links so that the people distributing the crapware will have to pay for the click!

  132. Marcos

    I have a simple rule, if it says Free Download! I must not download it

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