Cybercrime 101 – Advertise On A Search Engine For Success

imageIf you want to enhance your chances of being a successful cyber scam artist/cybercrook, you need to; look the part and act the part, of a successful Internet business organization.

How hard is that? Not hard at all when you consider all you need to do is offer a product that appears genuine, and perhaps most importantly – advertise in readily available and trusted media.

So, if you want to succeed in the $105 BILLION “Internet shadow economy”, advertising your “product” on an Internet search engine, could be a major step in helping you reach your financial goals.

Why an Internet search engine? Well, if one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results, including the pervasive ads that search engines sprout; there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. In a sense, search engines impart instant legitimacy.

Part of the process of offering a product that appears to be genuine, would include producing and promoting a Web site that instills confidence in those unlucky enough to click on your ad, such as the site pictured below for ErrorSmart.

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But, here’s what 2-Spyware.com has to say about ErrorSmart:

Error Smart is not an anti-spyware as it says but a smart new scam luring online for victims. Usually, ErrorSmart must be downloaded and installed manually from promoting website, but sometimes it is distributed by trojans. Error Smart is presented as reputable security tool, but the facts speak differently.

It compromises the system by disabling firewalls and other security applications. It displays large numbers of fabricated security reports that are partially true because Error Smart is able to download additional computer parasites on the infected computer.

On top of that, Lavasoft’s Ad-aware, sees ErrorSmart as a Rogue application as the following graphic indicates.

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But hold on! Given that search engine results can be manipulated, or worse (see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!” on this site), it’s reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation?

The simple answer is – search engines make little, or no effort, to educate their users in the risks involved in relying on advertisements appearing in their applications. As a consequence, the typical user I come into contact with believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

A user looking for a review of ErrorSmart, for example, has a reasonably good chance of finding the following review:

ErrorSmart uses the industry’s most advanced error-resolution technology and puts it to work for you. By scanning your hard drive, analyzing the errors and correcting the problems, ErrorSmart can restore your system performance and increase startup speed by up to 70 percent.

Whether it’s incomplete uninstalls, failed installations, driver issues or spyware infections that are affecting your PC, ErrorSmart will rid you of your computer problems in just minutes.

However, the graphic below, illustrates WOT users’ reactions to this article.

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Fact: Consumer confidence in the strength and reliability of search engine results, particularly ads, is seriously misplaced.

ErrorSmart (the site pictured earlier), a “scareware/rogueware” application developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false positives generated by the application, has been “advertised” for months on a number of leading search engines.

If you think this is a one off, or an isolated incident, then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not. For additional information on this issue see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!”, on this site.

So will search engine providers address the issues described in this article? Sure – but only when consumers who are totally fed up with tainted search engine results finally force them to. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Writing articles like this is not without risk. For example, several years ago I wrote an article on an application – Finally Fast – considered by many to be less than it pretends to be. Google “Finally Fast scam” to see what I mean.

Recently, Ascentive, the developers behind Finally Fast, had their lawyers email me a letter in which they threatened to sue me for posting my unbiased views on their product. Since I live in Canada, where the courts are not sympathetic to lawsuits that are launched to intimidate and harass, this letter had little effect. Actually, I considered their threat a backhanded compliment!

Nevertheless, since Ascentive is well know for aggressive threats to sue – they even sued Google – “ The claimant, Ascentive,  a software producing corporation that, after some bad press, got kicked (“suspended”) out of Google’s organic search results & whose AdWords account got disabled, is now  suing  Google”, I did hand the email to my lawyer.

My lawyers advice to me, in decidedly unlawerly language was – “tell them to kiss your ass”.  He want on to explain that a “libel chill” lawsuit such as this, had little chance of being considered by the courts in this country.

Like most people I don’t react well to threats, so I did consider looking to the Blogger community for support on this and mounting a campaign, with the help of the community, to take up the gauntlet and spotlight Ascentive’s actions.

But, considering the number of hours that such a campaign would require, I took the easy way out and removed the article. However, if my daily workload should ever lighten – I may yet revisit my decision.

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9 Comments

Filed under blogging, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Google, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, scareware, Search Engines, Windows Tips and Tools

9 responses to “Cybercrime 101 – Advertise On A Search Engine For Success

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Cybercrime 101 – Advertise On A Search Engine For Success « Bill Mullins' Weblog – Tech Thoughts -- Topsy.com

  2. Bill,

    Just keep doing what you are doing… It is just mind boggling that companies (or I should say criminals) like Ascentive are able to get away with what they do.

    Rick

    • Hey Rick,

      I found it a bit curious why it took two years for these idiots to get their “knickers in a knot”, given that Googling “Finally Fast Scam”, still brings up almost 300,000 hits. I suppose they decided to go after me, since the article was first in the search returns.

      Ascentive’s BS behavior has had no impact on my philosophy – I’ll continue to write on companies that are little more than cybercrooks. Since there are 1,000s of them, just like Ascentive, I sure won’t run out of material. 🙂

      Bill

  3. tim

    Good article. Personally I wouldn’t have removed the article, but that’s not why I’m commenting.

    I’m commenting because of the whole topic of the reliability of search engines. In my experience, you really need wisdom on how to really find what you are looking for on search engines. My opinion is that the paid ads are often the worst.

    What do I do when I’m not sure? Find someone (or a site) that I trust and ask.

    • Hey Tim,

      I totally agree – “the paid ads are often the worst”.

      Good to hear from you – I trust all is well “upstate”.

      Bill

      • tim

        I think we’re seeing more and more people receiving information. from their social.networks instead of search engines anyhow. I suppose this too ‘would be dangerous depending on who’s advice you ask for within your network. Criminals are becoming more and more savvy. Knowing someone or someplace you trust is key. This blog for example has proven t is a place for good answers 🙂

        Upstate is well, getting ready for winter :b

        • Hey Tim,

          I think you’re right – recommendations through social networks have taken on added importance.

          Winter!! The though of it makes me shiver. I’m ever hopeful that I’ll win the Lottery so that I can move to Florida. 🙂

          Bill

  4. What people do not invent for money …
    Under the guise of protection and safety of installing a mine, which explode any day now.
    Very good article Bill.