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Free Nintendo Switch emulators are fake

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Summary: Fake emulators for newly released Nintendo console used as bait to get users to fill out survey scams and download potentially unwanted applications.

Over the last few weeks, scammers have been trying to dupe users into believing that a software emulator exists for the Nintendo Switch, the company’s newest console that was released on March 3, 2017.

Switch Emulator videos on YouTube

Figure 1. YouTube video claiming to show users how to download Nintendo Switch Emulator

A search for “Nintendo Switch Emulator” on YouTube yields a variety of results, racking up tens of thousands of views (the most having over 76,000), while others have several hundred views. The content of the videos vary significantly. Some videos contain a step-by-step process showing how to visit a website, download a file, and play Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a PC.

[MP3 Audio of YouTube video with generic message]

Other videos feature a person talking about “free tools” but never explicitly referring to the Switch Emulator, indicating that these videos were designed to be generic so they could be repurposed for other trending search terms.

Fake Switch Emulator sites

Most of these bogus Switch emulator videos contain links to external websites in the description field, but in one case the website was promoted within the video itself. Most sites feature some Nintendo branding, including screenshots of Breath of the Wild.

Figure 2. Examples of fake Nintendo Switch Emulator sites

Survey scams and potentially unwanted applications

If a user tries to download one of these fake Nintendo Switch emulators, they will be directed to a website that claims they need to fill out a survey to receive an unlock code or to unlock the download itself.

Figure 3. Switch Emulator requires users to fill out a survey in order to receive an unlock code

Some surveys even offer the user to get a Nintendo Switch as well as other consoles and prizes:

Figure 4. Another Switch Emulator download offers users a chance at a free Nintendo Switch

Outside of the surveys, we found a YouTube video that didn’t lead to a survey, but instead resulted in software downloads for “Switch_Emulator_0.6.1.dmg” on the Mac and “Switch_Emulator_061.iso” on Windows. We detect the Mac installer as OSX.Malcol and the Windows installer as PUA.Downloader, which will download a potentially unwanted application called PUA.OneSystemCare.

The common link: Affiliate programs

Whether it’s survey scams or potentially unwanted applications, the YouTube videos and websites are likely driven by affiliate programs. The affiliate would be responsible for delivering a user to the website to fill out a survey, complete an offer, or download a file. For each successful conversion (a completed survey, offer, or download) the affiliate would collect a commission from the advertising network. In this case, it is unclear how much each affiliate is making for each conversion.

What about Wii-U emulators?

While there is no Nintendo Switch emulator, developers have been working on emulators for Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii-U. The most popular one is called Cemu and according to reports, it does support the latest Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild.

Don’t get scammed

If you’re looking to play emulated games on your personal computer, be wary of websites that ask you to fill out a survey to unlock content—that’s a big red flag that you’re being scammed. Do some additional research before you download and install any application on your computer. And if you really want to play games for the Nintendo Switch, consider buying one instead.

Protection

Symantec and Norton products detect the threats and risks discussed in this blog as the following:

By Satnam Narang

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