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Google’s Malware Marker: Safer, But Not Perfect

google_iconWe’ve previously discussed how Google keeps its search engine users safe, but if you missed it, let me explain again. Any result in the search giant’s huge database has been pre-screened for malicious content. Therefore Google will warn anyone who clicks a link in his or her search result that malware may lie ahead. Unfortunately, the system has its bugs.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the system isn’t foolproof. While Google does a great job of screening websites, it doesn’t find them all. That means that are still hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of malware links in the search engine. Never assume that a link is safe simply because it comes through Google.

The other issue is that sometimes Google marks legitimate websites as malicious. For example, The Pirate Bay was recently marked as a “Malware Distributor” by Google in mid-January.

The website itself, however, has never installed malware onto people’s computers – even if it is vastly unpopular for its links to media piracy. You can only get malware from The Pirate Bay by downloading files, which are actually hosted by other people.

It gets worse, however, as Google accidentally marked lots of other totally innocent websites as malware distributors earlier this month. TechCrunch, Cult of Mac, Inside Facebook and VatorNews  – all legitimate news websites – were marked as malicious last week. This bug was brought to our attention due to these being well-known websites, which raises this question – how often does this go unnoticed?

Therefore it makes sense that there are thousands – if not more – of perfectly legitimate websites being inappropriately marked as malware distributors. This could both cripple the website, and seriously harm your chances of finding what you’re looking for on the internet.

Obviously, we’re not saying you should ignore these warnings – they’re a vital part of internet security – but we do feel that it’s important that you know that, as with anything to do with computer security, it is not 100% foolproof either way.

And it’s not just Google’s fault either. Microsoft’s Bing search engine has a similar system, where it can take between three to six weeks for a website to get its malware label removed. Ouch!

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