Reading that Google was adding More Protection from Unwanted Software to their search results was a pleasant surprise. These deceptive ads for third-party downloads that include additional Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) along with the software that you were intending to download have been a plague for some time now. Not only do these ads lead to PUAs being installed, we are also constantly asked why we blocked what people thought were legitimate downloads.

Naturally I wanted to check this out for myself. Imagine my disappointment when I did a search for “download flash player” and the first result was an ad for a third-party download:


I did some more searches and found that depending on what you search for, you may or may not get ads for third-party downloads. A search for “download vlc player” yielded no ads:


While certainly not perfect, this is a major step forward in helping prevent PUAs, and based on the changes that Google has made to their AdWords policy, I only expect this to get better over time.  As you can see by the screen shots posted here, the official downloads are now clearly marked, and even with the third-party ad for Adobe Flash Player, the link to the official download certainly stands out in a way that should help prevent users from clicking on the third-party ads.

It will be interesting to see if other search engines follow suit. Until they do, it is up to all of us to spread the word about the changes Google is making and let others know how easy it now is to identify the official download links for software (as long as you’re using Google as your search engine).

Dan Para

About the Author

Dan Para

Senior Threat Research Analyst

Dan Para is a Senior Threat Research Analyst focused on the detection and prevention of malware and other threats.

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