googlechromeicon-300x300Google is often the first line of defense for users when it comes to online protection.  For years, Google has placed warnings on websites that are known malware hosts.  Unfortunately, malware distributers have learned ways to get around the Google enforcement.  Google now hopes to crack down on repeat offenders and offer longer lasting restrictions.

The Google search engine is based around the use of automated web bots.  These web crawling bots (sometimes called a “spider”) crawl websites for new information to be added to the main search index.  This information is compiled into the list of links that a user receives when they type a phrase into the Google search engine.  In the past, if a website was found to be in violation of Googles anti-malware, unwanted software or phishing policies, then the website would be branded with a warning.  This warning came in the form of a red splash screen that gave users the option to retreat to safety instead of entering the website.

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Google Safe Search warning as displayed before entering a website suspected of hosting malware.

While this system offered a temporary fix to the problem it also offered a loophole for exploitation.  Thanks to the way ad-networks and social media sharing work, it is possible for malware to appear on a legitimate website, through no fault of the owner.  Because of this, Google offers the option for webmasters to request an inspection to remove site warnings.  While good for standard website owners, this meant that malware distributers could abuse the system by temporarily removing offensive content only to put it back after the inspection concluded.  Googles new system hopes to address this abuse.

Googles new initiative will classify websites with frequent malware problems as “repeat offenders”.  This means that after a website has been shown to host malware on multiple occurrences, they will lose the right to repeal the malware warning for 30 days.  During this time, the website will display the “Harmful Program” warning when accessed from the Google search index as well as if the page is viewed on any browser that supports the Safe Browsing Service.  Currently, the Safe Browsing Service is available on Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

With any luck, Googles new enforcement policy should help cut down on accidental malware installs and reduce the effectiveness of malware as a lucrative industry.  At the very least it will deter repeat offenders from abusing the repeal system, which in and of itself will help make the internet a safer place.