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Google’s New Malware Warning

When you’re in the business of directing people to websites, not taking them to sites riddled with harmful malware is a priority.  As the world’s most popular search engine, and with a very important reputation at stake, Google is focusing on keeping its search results clean—or at least letting its users know when search results are suspicious and potentially dangerous.

Google now displays a warning for search results that appear to have been hacked or compromised.  Specifically, on search results pages, the notification sits below each suspicious website’s title as a hyperlink that says, “This site may be compromised.”

Google started warning users of malware-laden sites years ago.  Since 2006, Google has been prompting users with the warning, “this website might harm your computer,” when they try to visit sites that are suspected of distributing malware.  With infected search results continuing to deceive unsuspecting web surfers, Google has decided to add an extra warning.

On a support page dedicated to explaining the new warning, Google clarifies the distinction between the older warning and the new one.  The older one (i.e., “this website might harm your computer”) shows when Google’s malware detection system determines that a site is “potentially hosting malware.”  Google displays the new warning—“this site may be compromised”—when it suspects that a site has been hacked or compromised while not detecting any malware.

Hackers typically compromise a site with a couple of goals in mind.  Their intention could be phishing, which consists of tricking users into sharing personal details like credit card information.  It could also be spamming—a practice that violates search engine quality guidelines in order to fraudulently achieve a higher page rank.

Google is working closely with webmasters who believe their websites have unjustly been classified as hacked or compromised.  Such a label could be devastating for a business.  On the other hand, as an individual, it’s better to err on the side of caution.  Update your antivirus/antispyware software, and watch out for hacked websites!

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