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Google shares malware samples with hacked site admins

Seeing is believing

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google has rolled out a feature that provides webmasters of compromised sites with samples of malicious code and other detailed information to help them clean up.

The search giant has long scanned websites for malware while indexing the world wide web. When it detects outbreaks, it includes language in search results that warns the site may be harmful and passes that information along so the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers can more prominently warn users. Google also provides administrators a private list of infected pages so they can be cleaned up.

Now, Google will give additional detail by offering samples of malicious code that criminal hackers may have injected into a website. In some cases, the service will also identify the underlying cause of the malicious code. Admins of compromised websites will get the information automatically when logging in to Google's Webmaster Tools.

"While it is important to protect users, we also know that most of these sites are not intentionally distributing malware," Google's Lucas Ballard wrote here in announcing the new feature. "We understand the frustration of webmasters whose sites have been compromised without their knowledge and who discover that their site has been flagged."

Over the past few years, a variety of studies have concluded that the majority of malware being foisted on web surfers comes from legitimate sites that have been compromised. Web applications that don't properly vet text entered into search boxes and other website fields is one of the chief causes. Sloppy password hygiene by webmasters and compromises of website administration tools are two others.

The new feature will allow webmasters to view the the malicious javascript, HTML, or Adobe Flash that has been injected in to a site and provide the exact URL where it's found. Ballard cautioned the information should be considered a starting point in the process of cleaning the sullied site.

"If the underlying vulnerability is not identified and patched, it is likely that the site will be compromised again," he said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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