Milos Korenko

30 May 2014

Dear Download Scammers… GAME OVER

shutterstock_107284424I get asked this question pretty often: “Soooo IF you do not spend any money on advertising, or on retail presence, and nothing on pre-installations and OEMs, then how do you get new users?

Well, most often thanks to word-of-mouth. It goes something like this:

Step 1: The need

A PC user with an expiring or troublesome antivirus figures out he has a need for new security. (This does not happen to Mac users because of course they DO know Macs don’t need any AV… ;)

Step 2: The call

A PC user calls his favorite geek or IT friend who knows EVERYTHING about computers. Yes, a PC user could also make the effort and learn about it himself, read some reviews, check some comparative tests, and so on, but that takes too much time.

Step 3: The advice

“get avast free antivirus …” OR “download avast free” OR “install avast home version”. Then your friendly geek hangs up because his time is valuable.

Step 4: The what?

The PC user is not really sure what it was he needs to do or where to go or how to spell it, but for this we have Google. So, he googles it out. Voila! Easy!

Step 5: Download

Google lists out the search results, the PC user goes to any of the top links, clicks-through to AVAST page and downloads avast! Free Antivirus. Some 15 million people do this every month, and right after they would choose install>accept>next>next>finish>thank you.

Unfortunately, between Step 4 and Step 5 things could go wrong. Which brings me to the subject of this post: the download scammers. Pretty much anybody could set up a “download” site and offer “AVAST” downloads. For as little as 10 or 20 cents per click in Google AdSense they offer re-wrapped AVAST, packaged with Conduit toolbars, Adware, installers that behave like malware, SweetPacks, data-collecting add-ons, scam pay-me tools, and pretty much anything else you can or can’t imagine. All are advertising under our AVAST brand and doing so without our consent, and in clear violation of our end-user-license-agreement. The scammers do it for money. If the install cost is 20 cents for each click, and they generate 1 dollar for whatever they manage to install, it gets profitable.

Here is a sample of scam adverts published during 1 day:Paid_Search_Scams


Fighting this through official channels – by submitting complaints to Google – takes forever and is much like fighting windmills.

So here is a new approach, dear download scammers:

Step 1: Legal letter to give you the chance to STOP

Step 2: We will blacklist your domain as malware / PUP distribution site. In effect, you will pay for the clicks on your ads, but receive no traffic. You will have costs –but no revenue.



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