Report fake websites and Firefox distributions to Mozilla

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 28, 2013

When it comes to software downloads, I'm always trying to snag the software from official sources. In the case of Firefox, that is the website. The core reason for this is that Mozilla has virtually no control over third party websites. Many of those are perfectly legit, Softpedia, Major Geeks, Betanews and there is usually no ill-effect when you download Firefox from those sources.

But even legit sites may bundle Firefox or other popular programs with adware installers, and while some offer direct downloads as well, others do not.

If you thought that this is the worst thing that can happen to you, you thought wrong. It is easy enough to block the installation of adware in those installers if you pay attention to the dialog.

There is however another kind of distribution. This type does not bundle Firefox with an adware installer, it integrates adware such as the Delta Toolbar directly in the browser.Note that it is easy enough to add dangerous contents to the distribution as well, e.g. malware.

This raises several issues. First, users do not know what they install in addition to the browser. Maybe it is a toolbar, modified search and home page settings, or something worse. They only find out after the installation, but not before.

Second, it may cast a damning light on Mozilla when users cannot distinguish between the organization and the website they have downloaded the unofficial Firefox version of.

Report fake Firefox distributions

manipulated firefox distribution

A quick check on Google for "Mozilla Firefox", "Firefox Download" and "Mozilla Firefox Download" returned at least one instance on the first three pages of the search results where Firefox was offered either bundled with an adware installer, or where third party toolbars have been integrated directly in the distribution.

And that is not even taking the ads into account that are displayed on top and to the right of the search results. They too may mislead users and get them to websites where Firefox is offered in a modified version.

A check of the downloaded Firefox distribution on Virustotal returned 13 hits out of 44 antivirus engines, listing the file as "adware" or "PUP" (potentially unwanted software). The real Firefox download comes out clean on the site.

While you can uninstall those bundled tools or the browser without drawbacks usually, you may want to report sites that offer Firefox this way to Mozilla.

The organization's fraud report form lets you do just that. Enter the url that the violation occurred on, the category, e.g. charging for software or distributing modified Firefox, additional details if available, attachments, and your email address if you want to give Mozilla an option to contact you about the report.

Closing Words

It is apparent that - some or many - Internet users can't differentiate between official and third party download sources. It is also clear that this fact is abused by companies or individuals who distribute bundled third party software with those downloads, either in form of an installer that gives users choice what to install and what not, or integrated directly with no choice at all.


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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