The reason for the “partially dangerous” status? According to the report, “Some pages on google.com contain deceptive content right now.”
Google’s Safe Browsing technology scans Websites for potential risks to warn users before they visit unsafe sites. I first wrote about Safe Browsing a decade ago, back in 2006, when it was first included in Mozilla’s Firefox 2.0 Web browser as a feature to help make the Web safer for us all.
The fact that Google Safe Browsing rates Google.com as partially dangerous is not scurrilous in any way; rather, it is a testament to Google’s honesty and the integrity of its mission to do no evil.
Google’s automatic spidering of the Web will catch some malicious sites, and by Google’s own admission, there are sites in its index that will redirect users to locations that will attempt to install malware on their computers. Google also admits and warns that by way of Google.com (and the sites linked in its index), “Attackers on this site might try to trick you to download software or steal your information (for example passwords, messages, or credit card information).”
No doubt if it were any site other than Google.com, the world’s largest and most popular search engine, I (and probably a few security experts) would likely advise users to avoid using the site as it’s a risk. But the simple truth is that the Web can be a dangerous place, and going down the proverbial “rabbit hole” doesn’t always lead to Wonderland—it could lead to malware and user exploitation.
So what does Google advise?
“Don’t panic,” the Safe Browsing status of Google.com states. “Users sometimes post bad content on websites that are normally safe. Safe Browsing will update the safety status once the webmaster has cleaned up the bad content.”
I also have no doubt that Google’s efforts to keep its index as safe as possible for users will continue for as long as Google itself exists. What is very reassuring to me, and hopefully to the hundreds of millions of people who use Google regularly, is that Google holds itself to a high security standard. If Google has a risk, its own Transparency Report and Safe Browsing technology reveal that risk.
What is particularly ironic though about the current Safe Browsing status of Google.com is the fact that just yesterday Google’s Security blog had a post about how Google identified nearly 800,000 compromised Websites over the course of the last year.
“Safe Browsing and Google Search protect visitors from dangerous content by displaying browser warnings and labeling search results with ‘this site may harm your computer,'” Google’s security blog stated. “While this helps keep users safe in the moment, the compromised site remains a problem that needs to be fixed.”
Google has taken on the daunting task of indexing the Internet, and with that comes the ominous challenge of identifying and helping to fix compromised sites that could be labeled as dangerous—a task that ironically sometimes leads Google to itself and Google.com.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.