Google Strengthens Chrome Browser to Prevent Malware Downloads

Chrome is getting broader "Safe Browsing" protection capabilities that will alert users if a safe-appearing download actually is a malicious app in disguise.

Google Chrome security

Google's Chrome Web browser is getting new capabilities to protect users from downloading applications that appear to be safe and valid, but are actually malicious programs in disguise.

The added protection was announced by Moheeb Abu Rajab, a Google security staff engineer, in an Aug. 14 post on the Google Chrome Blog.

The changes are coming to help users more easily identify deceptive software programs that are disguised as helpful downloads, but which can actually make unexpected changes to a user's computer, such as switching his or her home page or other browser settings without consent.

"We'll show a warning in Chrome whenever an attempt is made to trick you into downloading and installing such software," wrote Rajab. "If you still wish to proceed despite the warning, you can access it from your Downloads list."

The stricter controls follow a wide range of other similar improvements that Google makes regularly to increase security for users, he wrote. "You should be able to use the Web safely, without fear that malware could take control of your computer, or that you could be tricked into giving up personal information in a phishing scam."

Google's existing Safe Browsing service helps protect users from malicious Websites and provides on-screen warnings about malicious downloads in Chrome, he wrote. "We're currently showing more than 3 million download warnings per week—and because we make this technology available for other browsers to use, we can help keep 1.1 billion people safe."

Online users can get additional information about protecting themselves at Google's Safety Center, where they can find tips and tricks for avoiding malware, malicious attacks and other hazards.

Google released its latest Chrome 36 browser in July, featuring rich notification improvements, the addition of a browser crash recovery bubble, a Chrome App Launcher for Linux, and a wide range of stability and performance updates, according to an eWEEK report.

In May, Google announced that its Chrome team has been experimenting with improved URLs for future Chrome versions that could provide better protection for users against phishing attacks that trick them into visiting malicious Websites. Instead of long URLs that are confusing and hard to identify as genuine, shorter origin-chip URLs would mean that phishers couldn't create offshoot URLs that could deceive users into visiting their sites.

The experiments involving the origin chip today don't mean that the feature will eventually be included in Chrome browsers of the future. Instead, the testing is allowing developers to see if it is something that they would want to incorporate if the testing shows promise.

Also in May, Google adopted a new strategy to fight malicious attacks in Chrome by only allowing the installation of Chrome extensions via the Chrome Web Store, rather than from other Websites. The change was done to prevent malware attacks through rogue extensions. The move follows changes made by Google in November 2013 when the company announced that it was making it tougher for malware to secretly install unwanted Chrome extensions.

In September 2013, the Chrome browser celebrated its fifth birthday. Launched in 2008 as a desktop or laptop application, Chrome today is widely used as a mobile Web browser on many different devices.

Chrome has had quite a ride since its birth. In June 2012, it surpassed for the first time Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser, and it has added many useful features over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.