Despite decades of widespread existence (and even more years of basically military-only use before that), the internet is still a veritable Wild West playground. The unfortunate fact is that a lot of the issues that come up for users stem from a segment of the online population who doesn’t really know how the thing works. That’s why Google rolled out its Safe Browsing option some time ago, and launched a stronger set of features for it last year.
Now, Google is working on warning users of the potential dangers on a site-by-site basis, meaning your next venture to browse for a good deal on shoes could result in a popup screen that tells you there may be malicious software lurking in the waters ahead.
One of the chief protections is against social engineering, which works to dupe users into downloading viruses and malware by masking as official information from known tech giants. You’ve seen these a hundred times, warnings that crop up and appear to inform you that your Flash is out of date, or your security settings aren’t strong enough for this content. (RE: this is why my mom keeps downloading viruses every time a popup box with flashing letters tells her that her computer is already infected, and she can clean it if she’ll just “click here”…I can’t get her to quit doing this.)
Of course, a lot of how Google knows about these perpetrators is through user reporting, so the option to submit a security report is included via check box on the warning screen.
There’s an unfortunate downside to all of this: sometimes it’s the site’s owners who’ve been taken advantage of. Google’s Safe Browsing will warn users away from websites that contain this type of social engineering, regardless of whether the site admin put it there, didn’t put it there, or doesn’t even know it’s there. That’s bad for online business, obviously, and Google is warning site admins to troubleshoot their setups if traffic is directed away for security reasons.