Searching a Software? Be Aware Where You Click, You May Get Malware
It looks like there is a massive ongoing malvertising campaign on Google Ads of search results that targets users looking to download popular software like MSI Afterburner, OBS Studio, Brave Browser, Notepad++, VLC Media Player, Audacity, AnyDesk, and many more. In the past days we have reported fake MSI Afterburner websites and fake OBS Studio websites, but it seems a large number of popular Windows software names is affected.
Basically, if you search for a popular software like “brave download” or also just the software name like “msi afterburner” there is a high chance that you will get on first results of Google search some advertised websites (generally with .store or .top TLD) that redirect the user to fake software websites (that look same as the legit one) that deliver malware. Here is an example of a fake VLC Media Player website that deliver a malicious installer:
The fake VLC Media Player website has a .TOP extension:
Domain: Vlc-install[.]top IP Address: 22.214.171.124 IP Country: United States (US) IP ASN: AS13335 CLOUDFLARENET Registrar: NameSilo,LLC Registrar IANA ID: 1479 Creation Date: 2022-12-28T14:12:44Z Name Server: rosalyn.ns.cloudflare.com Name Server: bart.ns.cloudflare.com
The “Download VLC” button delivers the fake VLC installer:
The fake installer is a .EXE file, unsigned and requires Administrator rights:
File: vlc_install.exe File size: 259 MB (271.741.703 bytes) MD5 checksum: 41CE8C53B4653F464344303393D20C5D SHA1 checksum: C012039DDB144CEBD4C0C68C84E124C230A000F5 SHA256 checksum: D5B8380662A41FD4409C1F4F5F821C77C7EC225514AEF8AFD5E01FC036FB10DB
One interesting thing we found is that a fake Brave installer was a .ISO file:
Mostly all fake installers we have found were in .ZIP, .RAR, .EXE or .MSI file extensions.
Once double-clicked, the ISO file is mounted as virtual disk and shows the files contained inside the ISO file, including BraveBrowserSetup.exe that is the fake installer:
File: BraveBrowserSetup.exe File size: 737 MB (772.853.552 bytes) MD5 checksum: FF8867B992BB02459769949537FD9010 SHA1 checksum: 19A5F8F521F2B0DF1D0A4661A67A52A91AE9DE55 SHA256 checksum: DECB30787800155B96778F23FCE23CB037874585BD810F32F6B6DAEA85449496
Here is a list of other malicious websites delivering fake installers:
hxxps://www[.]am-pm-contracting[.]com | 126.96.36.199 | LT | AS47583 Hostinger International Limited hxxps://brave-browser[.]bigkek[.]com | 188.8.131.52 | NL | AS58061 Scalaxy B.V. hxxps://www[.]aspergerspedia[.]com | 184.108.40.206 | RU | AS44094 Webhost LLC hxxps://get-brave[.]org | 220.127.116.11 | LT | AS47583 Hostinger International Limited hxxps://brave-cryptobrowser[.]com | 18.104.22.168 | NL | AS13335 CLOUDFLARENET hxxps://brave-browser[.]quarrycontrols[.]com | 22.214.171.124 | RU | AS204603 Partner LLC hxxps://www[.]aiudacityorg[.]com | 126.96.36.199 | US | AS47583 Hostinger International Limited hxxps://vlc-install[.]top | 188.8.131.52 | - | AS13335 CLOUDFLARENET hxxps://www[.]turkina[.]store | 184.108.40.206 | - | AS13335 CLOUDFLARENET hxxps://any-desktop.empresahbjbj[.]com | 220.127.116.11 | NL | AS43624 Pq Hosting S.r.l. hxxps://www[.]tradisical[.]store | 18.104.22.168 | - | AS13335 CLOUDFLARENET
Here is a list of other direct-download URLs of fake installers:
hxxps://bitbucket[.]org/alexjamescoloomb/hop/downloads/Any-Desk.zip hxxps://www[.]dropbox[.]com/s/cqj117rmivn38ov/braveappsetup-v56.11.2.zip?dl=1 hxxps://transfer[.]sh/get/YYyEzp/BraveBrowserSetup.iso
As you can see, the fake installers are hosted on free file sharing services.
All these fake software installers can be blocked by NoVirusThanks OSArmor with the option “Block unsigned processes on user space” (unchecked by default, you need to manually enable it), the others are blocked with the default protection profile (such as fake installers signed with an invalid or revoked digital signature, or unsigned .MSI installers).
If you don’t pay close attention to where you click when searching for software, it can be easy to run a fake (and malicious) installer without even knowing it. A simple workaround can be to avoid clicking on the first few ad-promoted results when searching for a software name and instead prefer organic results that generally show the official website.
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