Don’t Pay Extra For Free Software (Part 1)

You’ve probably been there…you’re trying to visit a website, view a photo or video, or perhaps open an attachment; only to find that you don’t have the right software installed, or need to download a new version.  Or maybe you’re setting up a new computer and need to install things from scratch.  It’s often quicker to Google ‘Adobe Flash Install’ rather than navigating adobe.com to find the installer you’re looking for, but be careful which link you choose.  It’s common to find copycat installers atop search results.  These copycats carry a higher cost than their free counter parts.

VideoLAN - A popular open source video player, and more.
VideoLAN – A popular open source video player, and more.

It’s not just Google that fails to police such search results, here’s a Yahoo! example:

OpenOffice - A popular open source productivity suite.
OpenOffice – A popular open source productivity suite.

And a Bing example:

Adobe Reader search on Bing
Adobe Reader search on Bing

Taking a look deeper at the InstallWin example here, if you follow the link you’re taken to an installwin.com page:

AdobeReaderInstallWin

When you click Download Now and run the installer you’re walked through a number of ACCEPT screens, in fact these various additional installers are chosen at random from a large list of current “offers”.

InstallWin InstallWin2 FindWind

Notice the windows are titled “Adobe Reader” as are the balloon pop-ups that occur during the installation process:

FakeAdobeBalloon2

FakeAdobeBalloon

Curiously the actually Adobe Reader installation failed for me.  I’m sure it’s just a bug, right?

AdobeReaderInstallFail

When you click done you’re finally taken to the official adobe.com, which confirms that the installation did fail.  But as you can see your browser has been “upgraded” with the FindWide Toolbar.

AdobeReaderInstallFailureWebPage

The list of “offers” carried within the InstallWin installer in my case had dozens of various unwanted programs:

  • Allgenius
  • BubbleDock
  • Common Dictionary
  • CrimeWatch
  • Desktop Temperature Monitor
  • DesktopDock
  • Findwide Toolbar
  • Genius Box
  • Groovorio
  • KNCTR
  • Linkey
  • LookThisUp
  • MyPCBackup
  • Optimizer Pro
  • PC Optimizer Pro
  • PC Speed Maximizer
  • PremierOpinion
  • Registry Helper
  • Search.us.com Toolbar
  • SearchProtect
  • Searchuscom Toolbar
  • Snapdo
  • Survey for PremierOpinion
  • SystemOptimizerPro
  • TidyNetwork
  • UpdateAdmin
  • VBates
  • VuuPC
  • WeatherBug
  • Wordproser
  • Yahoo Smartbar

This journey that started with a simple goal of reading a PDF document resulted in the installation of a number of unwanted programs, rather the one you wanted in the first place.

Take the extra time to go to the official software makers site when downloading applications.  It’s worth the couple extra seconds.

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