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article imageGoogle goes after Safe Browsing 'repeat offenders'

By James Walker     Nov 9, 2016 in Technology
Google has announced it is rolling out an update to its Safe Browsing technology that will filter out "repeat offender" sites. The company said it had observed webpages using flaws in Safe Browsing's implementation to continue displaying harmful material.
In its announcement, Google described repeat offenders as sites which "purposefully" post harmful content multiple times over a prolonged period. The company has evolved its algorithms to detect this kind of abuse, helping users to stay safe while online.
Safe Browsing was introduced in 2005 as a way to help people verify whether a website is secure. When the technology detects harmful content ahead, it blocks the page from loading and displays a red warning message to the user. Google has steadily updated the feature to make it aware of new threats and online attack vectors. Safe Browsing's core functionality has remained unchanged over the past decade though.
This has allowed some websites to develop systems that bypass the technology. Once a site is identified as hosting harmful content, warnings are displayed to all visitors until the content is removed. Google has detected a small number of websites that remove their infringing content when the warnings are applied. They then wait until Safe Browsing's warning is lifted and simply add the content back again.
From today, sites won't be able to use this technique. Safe Browsing will be able to look for patterns in the warnings triggered by a site. Domains found to repetitively host harmful content will be classified as "Repeat Offenders."
"Repeat Offenders are websites that repeatedly switch between compliant and policy-violating behavior for the purpose of having a successful review and having warnings removed," said Google. Please note that websites that are hacked will not be classified as Repeat Offenders; only sites that purposefully post harmful content will be subject to the policy."
Google will now show red warnings for sites infected with malware and other  unwanted software
Google will now show red warnings for sites infected with malware and other "unwanted software"
Once the Repeat Offender label is applied, the Safe Browsing warnings will remain present on the site for at least 30 days. After this period, the site administrator will then be able to request a review of their content by Google, or wait for automatic clearance. The webmaster will receive an email alerting them to their Repeat Offender status but will be unable to take action to lift it.
The change will help users to avoid potentially dangerous content while browsing the internet. Google is using its Safe Browsing systems to reduce traffic to malicious and deceptive sites, protecting unsuspecting users who could fall victim to malware attacks, email scams and unwanted software downloads.
In February, Google updated Safe Browsing with the ability to detect fake download buttons on websites. Sites containing these confusing controls now trigger Safe Browsing's fullscreen overlays, along with a warning the site may trick users into installing unwanted software. Deceptive download sites could soon be classed as repeat offenders, further reducing their traffic and limiting the impact of the scam links on their pages.
More about Google, safe browsing, Internet, Cybersecurity, Security
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