A fake Windows Movie Maker software that enables hackers to collect money from unsuspecting users managed to reach a global audience thanks to brilliant search engine optimisation techniques employed by hackers.
Microsoft discontinued the Windows Movie Maker in January, forcing millions of users to download a modified version of the software from the web.
The search engine optimisation technique used by crooks behind the scam website, ‘windows-movie-maker.org’, has been so good that the website now ranks among the top search results for 'Windows Movie Maker' both on Google and Bing, the two top internet browsers.
Search Engine Optimisation is a tool that helps website developers curate their websites as per popular search terms, what Internet users are looking for, what keywords need to be applied and how search engines work. To enhance a website's reach and to ensure it holds a top spot on search results in popular browsers, developers use various techniques like doing HTML, editing website content, adding keywords, and promoting backlinks.
This is probably what the developers behind the scam website, ‘windows-movie-maker.org’, did. By curating the site's SEO, they managed to ensure it topped search results on Google and Bing all over the world, even ranking as number one in a large number of countries.
'As a consequence of the website’s high search engine ranking, the crooks behind the scam have managed to reach a global “audience”, with the modified Windows Movie Maker emerging among the most prevalent threats in ESET’s telemetry in the past few days,' noted researchers at ESET.
Once a user downloads the modified Windows Movie Maker software from the scam website, he is bombarded with frequent pop-ups asking him to pay for an advanced version which will come with all features. While the software allows the user to work on the software, it prevents him from saving a document unless he pays $29.95 to upgrade to the advanced version.
According to the researchers, Microsoft replaced the old Windows Movie Maker with Windows Story Remix earlier this year, but lack of knowledge about the new software is forcing users to search for the old software on the web and thereby getting exposed to fraudulent campaigns run by malicious actors.
The security firm is now asking users to use reliable security solutions to detect and block malicious content, download software only from original websites, not to pay for software that is or was officially offered for free, and to use Windows Story Remix instead of fake software being peddled on the web as a replacement for Windows Movie Maker.