SearchLock malware, a virus, spyware, or a browser hijacker?

Is SearchLock malware, a virus, spyware, or a browser hijacker? A couple of weeks ago we started noticing several blogs and sites listed in Google’s search results that were framing SearchLock as malware.

Obviously concerned, we started an investigation. But before we dig in, let lay this one to rest:

No, SearchLock is Not Malware.

I can personally assure you that SearchLock is completely safe and in no way poses you harm.

Specifically, SearchLock is absolute, 100% NOT a virus, malware, or spyware. I am co-developer of this project, and the leader of this company and I absolutely would not put my reputation on the line by creating any sort of malware. It’s just not worth it.

The Investigation into Damaging Google Results Begins

So, where did these suspicious results come from? It seems like these results all appeared in Google within days of each other. Naturally, the first thing I did was read some of the posts.

I was in for a shock. While there are indeed some great info sites out there about legitimate threats that PC users might face, it was immediately evident that these articles were different. They were filled with scare tactics, questionable English, an astonishing lack of research, and all sorts of stinging accusations about SearchLock.

Most of these malware and virus alert blogs such as im-infected.com contain several almost identical boilerplate articles.  These articles are often highly templated and are designed for maximum exposure in search engines. They all managed to rank higher than us for our brand keywords surprisingly quickly.

Lies, Misinformation, and Libel for Profit

Much of the information in these posts is 100% false. As they would have you believe, SearchLock installs itself sneakily onto your system and watches your every move, only to display annoying popup ads which cause more viruses. Oh, and apparently it is nearly impossible to remove.

It’s all laughable, really. Anyone who has actually used SearchLock would tell you so.

searchlock virus

Shady stuff here, don’t believe everything you read.

SearchLock does not come bundled with any freeware, heck it’s not even an EXE. It cannot “sneak” onto your computer, does not cause popups, and cannot steal your identity or cause other viruses. To install SearchLock users must click and confirm just like with all Chrome extensions.

No malware, no sneakiness, no bundling of other programs, none of the other shady things that these nasty posts accuse SearchLock of.

What .DLL? Fabricating Threats to Earn a Buck

Here’s a perfect example of the completely false, un-researched, and cookie-cutter approach that these sites use:

SearchLock is NOT a windows program. Notice the link to install their program :-)

SearchLock is not even a windows program. This information is 100% fabricated. Notice the link to install their program which earns them a commission. :-)

The accusations made by these sites and the scare tactics they use are damaging to our reputation and helping the publishers earn a few bucks in the process.

Show me the Money!

In every case, you will notice that the resolution to removing the “SearchLock malware” is to download and optionally purchase some type of antivirus software such as SpyHunter,  AnviSoft, or Malwarebytes.

Their removal instructions are a total joke. You don’t need ANY of these to remove SearchLock from your browser.

These install buttons are affiliate links, where the publisher of the article receives a commission when someone downloads and/or purchases. Specifically:

  • AnviSoft affiliates earn 80% of each sale. Could this be the motivation?
  • SpyHunter affiliates earn 75% of each sale. Mmm hmmm.
  • Malwarebytes promoters earn 30%.
  • Some of these affiliates may even have agreements to receive a fee just for an install, no purchase necessary.
Spreading inaccurate information to get paid.

Using scare tactics to get paid.

Libel Lawsuit Uncovered

Digging deeper into the matter, we uncovered that at least one of the owners of these blogs, Sean Doyle, has a lawsuit in his past for doing the same thing to another software developer.

Sean’s nasty review of the software in question was ultimately removed from his website.

Does it really take legal action to have this type of situation rectified? It would be easier for everyone if the affiliates in question could find a more legitimate way to promote their software offers. We can always hope…

Knock Knock, is Anyone Home?

Other than Sean, who else owns all of these blogs and sites that are badmouthing SearchLock with such inaccurate information?

We tried to uncover who the owners of the other blogs were so we could get in touch with them about removing or at least correcting these posts.

I had a little hope when I found a “contact us” page of one of the offending sites:

Oh how I wish it were true. Turned out this contact information was bogus.

Oh, how I wish it were true. Turned out this contact information was bogus.

 

An email to im-infected.com was returned as undeliverable. I wish I could say I was surprised.

searchlock malware

No one is home at Im-infected.com. Their “contact” address is a fake.

Other sites were rife with broken “about us” and “contact” links, non-existent contact information, adorned with fake, un-contactable Google+ profile pages, and foreign addresses. For some reason, several of the businesses that did list an address were located in and around Russia.

The Truth: Black Hat Affiliate Marketing with Search SPAM

It’s obvious to me now that these tactics are a quick way for the publishers of these articles to make a quick buck at the expense of companies like ours.

dirty-money

Dirty affiliate tricks can mean big money. Courtesy of user 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

The combination of scare tactics, long, search friendly spam articles that attract clicks, and paid affiliate promotions for malware removal is the perfect brew to scare people into action.

Luckily, google is getting better at detecting these types of abuses and removing them from their search listings. Unfortunately for us, there is still much room for improvement.

The Final Verdict

I wonder if the companies whose software is being promoted would condone such actions by their affiliates. I doubt it. It’s shady and ultimately damages the brands these sneaky affiliates are promoting.

We will do everything we can to have these damaging articles removed and rectify our reputation. It may take a while, but we won’t give up the fight.

 

17 thoughts on “Is SearchLock malware, a virus, spyware, or a browser hijacker?

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  • May 22, 2015 at 1:12 pm
    Permalink

    Hi ,

    Thank you for explanation. I was questioning whether this was Adware – and a Yahoo Answers among other posts insist it is – and I’m pleased to read your rebuttal. Your clear, professional, and copiously illustrated webpage causes me to believe you. I wish more legit developers would do this. When I accidentally clicked on your pop-up and your site installed this browser helper I was concerned. I’m relieved after reading your post and believe it’s safe.

    A tip: sign your name. People trust people, not websites.

    Good luck to you. Unfortunately most people will accept the scare and won’t research whether Searchlock truly is adWare. I hope you can break through the noise.

    Best,
    Chris Blanton
    chris@bizdoc.us

    Reply
    • May 22, 2015 at 8:14 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. And yes, you are probably right about using names–I’ll make sure we start doing this. We’re trying as best as we can to break through the noise of the naysayers–thanks for your support! -Aaron

      Reply
    • August 21, 2016 at 10:41 am
      Permalink

      Thanks for promoting transparency in responding and encouraging p2p connections!
      Yonder

      Reply
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  • March 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm
    Permalink

    I think the addition of using names would be a great Idea. It was my first thought when you stated , ” I am co-developer of this project, and the leader of this company and I absolutely would not put my reputation on the line by creating any sort of malware. “. Then I noticed no name was included. I’ve been using SearchLock for a couple of months now and have been satisfied with my results. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • April 9, 2016 at 8:57 pm
    Permalink

    Hello,
    I downloaded Searchlock on my MAC. When I am on a website, there will be ads off to the side of products I have looked at in past searches. Why is this happening? I thought the places I visit online aren’t tracked? I read that searches are more limited with this add on, is that true?
    Thanks,
    Celestia

    Reply
    • April 11, 2016 at 11:54 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Celestia, thanks for your comment. SearchLock is not tracking your searches, but the sites that you visit after clicking the results may have tracked the page you visited. Then, when you visit another page at a different site, those same products appear there as well. This is called retargeting, and many sites do it nowadays. If you would like to prevent this from happening, I recommend installing uBlock, AdBlock, or Ghostery in addition to using SearchLock. Hope this helps! -Aaron

      Reply
  • June 15, 2016 at 5:45 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the info about uBlock, AdBlock, or Ghostery. I’m going to add those also.

    Reply
  • July 24, 2016 at 12:53 am
    Permalink

    Searchlock is a vital part of online privacy….people are always concerned about privacy then give it up by voicing their thoughts,the online equivalent would be entering data…….learn to keep your thoughts to yourself, you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason…..whatever you do seek wisdom…don,t let the internet follow you around like a private investigator….

    Reply
  • July 24, 2016 at 2:31 am
    Permalink

    Aaron..no problems here all is explained in you previous comments..it does what it says on the tin..thanks for a great addon.

    Thanks and good luck with the work.
    Regards Mitch

    Reply
  • August 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm
    Permalink

    Here it is August 17, 2016; and it continues to seem everybody that has a personal computer these days are have a fillibuster of a worry about privacy concerns over their website internet searches. I’ve seen numerous sites trying to retail their own brand of privacy software and saying SearchLock is malware. Since 911 federal government security agencies have gone lunatic fringe over their own security issues from global professional hackers. Bottom line virtually nothing over the internet cyberspace is private anymore. The safest way to stay somewhat privacy free is to not own a computer.
    On a final note: If people who use computers for surfing on the web have nothing to hide, why all fuss? I’m not trying to sound pessimistic but even the best rated Anti-Virus Security Suites won’t guarantee someone will be virus free or protect against personal privacy. The future of global internet will eventually be under Federal Government control like it or not.

    Reply
  • August 25, 2016 at 5:42 pm
    Permalink

    Hello:

    I was wondering if there is a way to turn SearchLock on and off? For some searches that I do Searchlock seems to filter out responses. When I search on computers in my office that do not have SearchLock, I get hits that do not come in with SearchLock. Thank you, John.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2016 at 6:32 am
      Permalink

      Hi John,

      Sorry for the delayed reply.

      SearchLock is disabled by default when using incognito. If you want to search in other search engines, you can use your incognito mode. Alternatively, you can also scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on one of the search engine icons. Clicking on this icons means that you’ll conduct your search query there and leave SearchLock for that single search. However, be warned that your searches won’t be protected when you use these methods.

      I hope this helped!

      Reply

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