New Google Warnings Protect Internet Users

Jay Wrolstad,
Google is taking a proactive approach to Web surfing security by issuing warnings about potentially harmful sites detected during an Internet search.

Through a partnership with, which has a vast database of sites that distribute spyware, spam, and other potentially harmful Web pages, the search giant initially will caution users who attempt to click on such a site. An alert from Google will appear that says, “Warning — The website you attempted to visit has been reported to as a site that hosts or distributes badware.”

The advisory page identifies the possible risk and gives you the choice to return to the query results page or proceed to the questionable site. Down the road, the general warning will be replaced by the Stop Badware Coalition to include information specific to a site, such as a file-sharing network, that describes the potential problems.

Right Approach
Malicious software is wreaking havoc on many Internet users, by downloading Internet software that appear harmless at first glance, but can adversely impact computer performance or usher in a flood of pop-up ads.”This is a smart move by Google to protect its users, and marks a trend among companies looking to stem the tide of malware,” said Forrester Research analyst Natalie Lambert. She noted that Microsoft is including a similar capability in the forthcoming Internet Explorer 7 browser, which will include an indicator that warns users against certain nefarious Web sites collected in a database and allows users to report such locations.

Others taking this approach include AOL, which has enlisted help from McAfee to safeguard its users. McAfee’s Total Protection package includes a SystemGuards module, which monitors computers for specific behaviors that might signal virus, spyware, or hacker activity, and a plug-in called X-Ray for Windows, which is designed to detect and eliminate “root kits,” i.e. hacker software.

The new SiteAdvisor tool is designed to identify potentially dangerous Web sites that contain spyware or adware. Findings are summarized with red, yellow, and green icons that provide users with an at-a-glance view of Web site ratings.

Educating the Masses
Anything that helps inform and safeguard consumers is a step in the right direction, Yankee Group analyst Jonathan Singer said.

Lambert concurred, pointing out that the distribution of malicious software is extensive, with hackers and cybercriminals creating official-looking destinations that are, in fact, “phishing” operations used to steal personal information.

“Warnings are essential in addressing this problem,” says Lambert. “And the ability to quickly update the listings of questionable sites will certainly help.”