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.