Scammers are at it again - taking advantage of Google sponsored ads for acquiring traffic in order to redirect it to malware-infected copies of legitimate software. win.rar GmbH is warning users of an ongoing fraudulent AdWords campaign pushing a malware-infected copy of WinRAR, the popular archiving application. Starting from the basic fact that, both, legitimate and malicious users can purchase their visibility, the fake WinRAR release is only the tip of the iceberg.
Let's take a peek at the campaign impersonating Download.com -- impersonation is a form of flattery -- and discuss a separate campaign promising to deliver free copies of the free in general, WinRAR and WinZip, managed by a Zango adware affiliate.
Upon searching for WinRAR, the bogus ad appears at the top of the search results, with the actual fake Download.com site located at dreamcentury .cn/winrar.htm. Upon execution, the fake WinRAR sets the foundation for the second part of the scam, since the affected users would be periodically redirected to rogue security software sites, urging them to take action and disinfect themselves.
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WinRAR is also impersonated in another currently active AdWords campaign, next to WinZip, with the second campaign operated by Zango affiliate, a well known adware vendor. Zango's campaign is naturally not delivering any copies of WinRAR or WinZip, instead it's pushing a copy of their toolbar taking advantage of fraudulent practices.
The participants in Zango's affiliate network and the rogue security software one, are generating revenues based on the number of installations, with the affiliate model's high payout rates as the main incentive for the introduction of new tactics. And whereas Google's AdWords seems to be part of their ad budget in this particular case, sponsored ads are only part of the (fraudulent) marketing mix, with blackhat search engine optimization tactics remaining the traffic acquisition tactic of choice.