Google gets tough on unwanted downloads

By | February 25, 2015

Google has unveiled new features in its web platforms designed to prevent the spread of potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) or malware, the search engine announced on Monday.

google warning

Software engineer, Lucas Ballard claimed in a blog post that the changes to Google Chrome search and ads would help to protect users from ‘nefarious downloads.’ The new bold red alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. The warning states, “The site ahead contains harmful programs.”

The company has long focused on those categories and for obvious, if unstated, reasons. It would prefer that people – much less, shifty software – not alter the Chrome home page, which features the Google search engine, the Mountain View, Calif firm’s primary revenue generator. Likewise, the last thing Google wants is to have adware, especially the most irritating, turn off to all – online advertising.

The new alert is only the latest in a line of warnings and more draconian moves Google has made since mid-2011, when the browser began blocking malware downloads. Google has gradually enhanced Chrome’s alert feature by expanding the download warnings to detect a wider range of malicious or deceitful programs, and using more assertive language in the alerts.

The browser’s malware blocking and suspect site warnings come from Google’s Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service. Google’s malware blocking typically tests much better than Safari’s or Firefox’s, however, because Google also relies on other technologies, including reputation ranking, to bolster Chrome’s Safe Browsing.

Google has also reworked its Search algorithm to identify dangerous sites and remove them from search results altogether so that users will not accidentally click them. Google has even begun removing ads that lead to these sites.

Google uses other signals, the details of which it has not disclosed, to identify websites that will likely serve up unwanted software like home page changers. Google search uses similar signals to ward off entries in the results list. “This change reduces the chances you’ll visit these sites via our search results,” wrote Lucas Ballard, a software engineer in his blog on Monday.