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Google beefs up search result malware warning

'This site may be compromised'

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Google has expanded a program designed to prevent search engine users from visiting websites that could scam them or install malware on their computers.

The feature includes the words “This site may be compromised” to search results that contain sites that Google's automated tools indicate may be under the influence of third-party spammers, phishers or other scammers. Hackers often exploit vulnerabilities on legitimate sites so they can be used as a low-cost and stealthy platform for carrying out phishing attacks and spamming operations.

“When we detect something suspicious, we'll add the notification to our search results,” Gideon Wald, Google's associate product manager, blogged on Friday. “We'll also do our best to contact the site's webmaster via their Webmaster Tools account and any contact email addresses we can find on the webpage.”

In the past, webmasters have complained that it takes far too long for Google to remove warnings after sites are cleaned up. Wald said webmasters can contact Google and request expedited reviews once compromised websites have been disinfected.

The new warnings augment an existing program that includes the words “This site may harm your computer” when queries turn up sites believed to infect users with malware. In those cases, users who want to visit the site anyway are forced to copy the URL and manually paste it into their browser's address bar. Under the program unveiled on Friday, users who don't want to heed the warning may simply click on the link provided in the results page.

The new warnings are intended to expand the number of websites that get flagged. It comes as Dark Reading reported that Google, web host GoDaddy, Microsoft and other companies have formed a consortium to take down unlicensed pharmacy websites that peddle Viagra and other prescription drugs. Such rogue pharmacies, which rake in billions of dollars selling fake medicine, have proved extremely resilient against past takedown attempts. ®

This article was updated to correct information about the malware warnings. They are still in place.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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