Google's 'Safe Browsing' Program To Block More Websites With 'Unwanted Software'

Whether it's through its Chrome browser, search engine, or other services, Google has been trying to increase security on the Web by pushing more aggressively for standards and policies that help protect the users.

About a year ago, Google started warning Chrome users about "unwanted software," which the company defines through the following basic characteristics:

  • It is deceptive, promising a value proposition that it does not meet.
  • It tries to trick users into installing it or it piggybacks on the installation of another program.
  • It doesn't tell the user about all of its principal and significant functions.
  • It affects the user's system in unexpected ways.
  • It is difficult to remove.
  • It collects or transmits private information without the user's knowledge.
  • It is bundled with other software, and its presence is not disclosed.

In the coming weeks, Google will increase its focus on this type of security and announced that users should expect to see more warnings in Chrome (and other browsers that support Safe Browsing) about sites that offer such software. The unwanted software could appear on websites through a variety of methods, including through ad injectors or through ad networks lacking strict quality guidelines.

The new unwanted software protections are part of the Safe Browsing program, which includes protections against sites that are infected with malware, or against dangerous file downloads. Google Safe Browsing's lists of malware or phishing websites are also used by Firefox and Safari.

Google promised that the program won't be used beyond the declared objectives:

“We want to be really clear that Google Safe Browsing's mandate remains unchanged: we're exclusively focused on protecting users from malware, phishing, unwanted software, and similar harm. You won't see Safe Browsing warnings for any other reasons," said Google's Safe Browsing team in a blog post.

A few days ago, a popular torrent site was blocked in Chrome showing the exact same message that the unwanted software warnings will show. This could have been part of Google's earlier testing for the new protections integrated into Safe Browsing. However, Google never made it clear whether this was an error on its own part or whether the site had malware at the time (that the site owners got rid of later).

Filtering programs such as Google's Safe Browsing are powerful tools that can protect against most malicious sources but can also block sites that shouldn't be blocked, which is why both Google and users of the Safe Browsing program on Chrome, Firefox or Safari need to be vigilant about what gets blocked.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

This thread is closed for comments
19 comments
    Your comment
  • Morbus
    Oh no! They're gonna block the google chrome website!!!

    "It is deceptive, promising a value proposition that it does not meet."
    Check.

    "It tries to trick users into installing it or it piggybacks on the installation of another program."
    Totally check.

    "It doesn't tell the user about all of its principal and significant functions."
    Oh, definitely check.

    "It affects the user's system in unexpected ways."
    LEL.

    "It is difficult to remove."
    Not check.

    "It collects or transmits private information without the user's knowledge."
    <_<

    "It is bundled with other software, and its presence is not disclosed."
    Check.
  • MarkW
    So far, those notices can be bypassed with a single click. So nothing really gets blocked. You just get notified that potential headaches lie ahead if you proceed onward.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    @Morbus: Thanks for the laugh! (even if it's kinda true...)