Google expands safe-browsing application

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Targets ‘Unwanted Software’.

In its latest effort to protect against “unwanted software” intrusions, the company is extending its warning system into a broader “safe browsing” application, which works in the Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox browsers as well. SAN FRANCISCO — Get ready to see more red warning signs online as Google adds ammunition to its technological artillery for targeting devious schemes lurking on websites.

Google announced Thursday that it will be improving and increasing access to its Safe Browsing search by signaling individuals when ads, websites, or downloads come attached with what the company calls “unwanted software.” Google defines “unwanted software” as any program installed without a user’s explicit permission. This includes software that tricks an individual into downloading it, piggybacks on another installation, or is found “bundled” with other programs. The latest weapon is aimed at Web sites riddled with “unwanted software” — a term that Google uses to describe secretly installed programs that can change a browser’s settings without a user’s permission. Those revisions can unleash a siege of aggravating ads or redirect a browser’s users to search engines or other sites that they didn’t intend to visit. Google had already deployed the warning system to alert users of its Chrome browser that they were about to enter a site distributing unwanted software.

The most widespread complaints have been about unwanted pop-ups or advertising, hijacking the default browser, and sending individuals to unrelated pages when they click a link. This breach of security affects both users and website owners, who can find their website compromised with the troublesome software without any knowledge.

All told, the safe browsing application protects about 1.1 billion browser users, according to a Thursday blog post that Google Inc. timed to coincide with the 26th anniversary of the date when Tim Berners-Lee is widely credited for inventing the World Wide Web. Last month, Google said that its Chrome Web browser would warn you before you visit a site that encourages you to download nefarious programs that make undesirable changes to your computer or interfere with your online experience. It will extend Safe Browsing notifications into Google Analytics, so owners can discover issues with a website – the alerts were previously only available through Webmaster Tools. Our Safe Browsing technology may not be quite as old as the Web—which celebrates its 26th birthday today—but ever since Safe Browsing launched nearly eight years ago, it’s continually adapted to protect web users, everywhere,” reads a blog post from Google. Google’s alerts about unwanted software build upon the warnings that the safe-browsing system has already been delivering for years about sites infected with malware, programs carrying viruses and other sinister coding, and phishing sites that try to dupe people into sharing passwords or credit-card information.

Google finds around 50,000 malware-infected sites and just around 90,000 phishing sites each month (which we can only assume get added to its warning systems). Google also is demoting the nettlesome sites in the rankings of its dominant Internet search engine so people are less likely to come across them in the first place.

Worse, Google finds plenty more compromised sites—or websites that were once legitimate, but have been hacked to use a viewer’s trust as an attack vector for harmful software—than sites built with the express purpose of hosting and distributing malware.

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