UPDATE x5: Google goes nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings

I'm getting reports that Google search is going nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings and displaying this beneath all entries.I'm seeing it no matter what I search for, which is a real pain because you can't get to sites that you are looking for.

I'm getting reports that Google search is going nuts with the "This site may harm your computer" warnings and displaying this beneath all entries.

I'm seeing it no matter what I search for, which is a real pain because you can't get to sites that you are looking for. I guess this demonstrates the pitfalls of relying on one search engine provider ...

Anyone else seeing this? What are you doing while Google's effectively down?

UPDATE: This might have something to do with StopBadware.org being down as all search engine results are filters through this list before being displayed.

UPDATE x2: Things seem back to normal now.

UPDATE x3: Be careful out there ... it seems that Google has removed the filtering of bad sites. Sites that were on StopBadware.org block list are now not being flagged as potentially dangerous.

UPDATE x4: We now have official word from Google as to the cause of the problem ... drum roll please ... human error!

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to get our list of URLs. StopBadware carefully researches each consumer complaint to decide fairly whether that URL belongs on the list. Since each case needs to be individually researched, this list is maintained by humans, not algorithms.

We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

The resulting flood of traffic to StopBadware.org took the site down.

This morning, an apparent glitch at Google caused nearly every [update 11:44 am] search listing to carry the "Warning! This site may harm your computer" message. Users who attempted to click through the results saw the "interstitial" warning page that mentions the possibility of badware and refers people to StopBadware.org for more information. This led to a denial of service of our website, as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information. We are working now to bring the site back up. We are also awaiting word from Google about what happened to cause the false warnings.

Seems like everything is working fine at Google's end now.

UPDATE x5: Updated response from Google:

We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list. 

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All