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Security

Windows Movie Maker scam tops Google search results

The fake software asks you to pay for an "upgrade" to unlock the video editor's full features. The scam has spread globally with help from search engines.

screen-shot-2017-11-09-at-10-39-12-am

Screenshot of windows-movie-maker.org, the site spreading the fake software.

Alfred Ng/CNET

Windows Movie Maker died in January, but an impostor has risen.

The first two results for "Movie Maker" on Google are for fake software pretending to be Microsoft's program. The next result is an third-party app on Microsoft's website, which people have complained is filled with ads.

ESET

If you're looking to download the amateur video editor that Microsoft had provided for years, you won't find it from the company. 

But one of the top search results on Google for "Windows Movie Maker" leads to a scam version of the video editor that aims to steal your money.

The first result on Google searches is valuable real estate, a global platform where a website has the potential to get millions of clicks thanks to how the search algorithm ranks it. Google has been criticized for promoting fake news and hoaxes via its search results, a plague the website has promised to fix.

"We are always working to improve our results and after reviewing this case, have taken actions to help protect our customers," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "As always, we recommend customers use caution when downloading apps or programs from sites that aren't known or reputable."

Google didn't respond to a request for comment. A similar request sent to a support email listed on windows-movie-maker.org received no response.

The fake software comes from the website windows-movie-maker.org. It ranks just above a link from Microsoft's store website that also points to a fake. Even though it's listed on the Microsoft online store, it's actually an off-brand app named "Movie Maker," which reviewers said was filled with spam ads.

Victims who download the fake Windows Movie Maker do get Microsoft's video editor, but are blocked from features like saving files unless they pay for the "full version." The "upgrade" costs $29.95, despite the fact that Windows Movie Maker was free when it was available.

The scam is so prevalent that ESET, an antivirus company, said it's their third-most detected threat worldwide since Sunday. It's prevalent in the Philippines, Denmark and Finland, and in Israel, it's the most widespread threat, ESET said. The greatest  number of searches for "Windows Movie Maker" on Google came from the Philippines, according to Google Trends.     

Researchers from ESET said they've notified Microsoft and Google about the scam.

First published Nov. 9, 7:51 a.m. PT
Update, 5:09 p.m.: Adds statement from Microsoft.

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