Windows Movie Maker Scam spreads massively due to high Google ranking

Scammers have been surprisingly successful at distributing a modified version of Windows Movie Maker that aims to collect money from unaware users. The spread of the scam (which itself is far from new) has been boosted by search engine optimization of the crooks’ website, as well as continuing demand for Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft’s free video editing software, discontinued since January 2017.

At the time of writing, the website spreading the modified software, ‘windows-movie-maker.org’, comes up as one of the top results when searching for “Movie Maker” and “Windows Movie Maker” on Google (using this browser, it ranks as number one in the majority of countries with the highest number of internet users). On Bing, the search engine with the second largest global market share, the website is also placed on the first page of results.

windows-movie-maker-scam-serp

ESET security products detect the scam as Win32/Hoax.MovieMaker and block the website distributing it. We have notified both Google and Microsoft about the fraudulent nature of the high-ranking website (which was registered back in 2010).

windows-movie-maker-download-scam

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.

On November 5, 2017, Win32/Hoax.MovieMaker was the third most detected threat worldwide and the number one threat in Israel. As of November 6, our telemetry recorded many detections in the Philippines, in Israel, Finland and Denmark.

How the Windows Movie Maker Scam works

When users install the software offered on the above-mentioned website, they get a functioning Windows Movie Maker. However, unlike the official and free Windows Movie Maker by Microsoft, this one claims to be a trial version that needs to be upgraded to a full version in order to offer all features.

The user is repeatedly prompted to purchase the full version, first when the software is launched and later when the user tries to save a new document. In the latter case, the prompt prevents the user from continuing, making it appear as if saving a document was a paid feature.

windows-movie-maker-scam-software

The price requested for the fake upgrade is set to $29,95, in what is presented as a 25% discount on the payment website used by the crooks.

windows-movie-maker-check-out

How to stay safe from Windows Movie Maker Scam

If you’ve already installed the Movie Maker offered on windows-movie-maker.org, uninstall it and run a scan using a reputable antimalware solution.

To avoid falling victim to similar scams, always stick to official sources when downloading software. If you really need to use a piece of software that’s no longer distributed by its original maker, make sure you:

  • Use a reliable security solution to detect and block malicious content.
  • Consider using the official replacement for the discontinued software – in this case, Windows Story Remix.
  • Don’t pay for software that is or was officially offered for free. Information on software pricing should be available online.

Indicators of compromise

  • Installers/droppers:

1060D7935EADB8AAD06EDD1BEBFBF0FD3F7356D8

4F91C0F1AF523B914BA319A7CA02FF79CD02ED6F

6E57AC0812DE0D473DE669CBBAAEF1903995E59F

  • Variants of hoax app:

3886F28150EC74CC61B7A736147B6307A266B0B3

3F0D346FF54A62C2F6E4F7B348D68D0D6E27B981

529017D113BDCECAF1B1FC4DF9555518251A8C7A

written by Peter Stancik, ESET We Live Security


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