Google searches to warn users about risky websites


8 Aug 2006

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Visitors to Google will now receive a warning if they click on a link to a website suspected of hosting malicious software.

The search engine giant has partnered with the Stop Badware coalition to alert internet users to the possibility that a site they are about to visit could harm their computer. The warning appears as an interrupt page whenever people are about to visit websites that have been reported as distributing badware — which is a catch-all term for software that could damage a person’s PC.

The interrupt page does not prevent people from accessing the site but suggests instead that they can try going back to the Google results page and choosing a different link or else to visit a different site.

The service is based on a watch list of known badware sites that has been compiled by the Stop Badware coalition, which is a project led by researchers at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and Oxford University’s Internet Institute. The coalition also has the backing of IT companies such as Google, Lenovo and Sun.

Initially, the warnings link to a general page at www.StopBadware.org but as more research is carried out into the malicious sites, it is planned that this general page will be replaced with a report about the individual website. The group said that this is in keeping with its stated intention to provide reliable, objective information about applications that people typically download on to their computers in order to help them make better choices about those programs.

Specifically, the project aims to inform people about the range of malicious software such as spyware and adware. Their effects include subverting computers for the benefit for a third party, bombarding users with unwanted advertising or even stealing personal information.

By Gordon Smith