Google Updates Safe Browsing Alerts for Network Administrators

Google's Safe Browsing Alerts for Network Administrators will now deliver warnings about a broader range of threats, including phishing scams.

Google Alerts 2

For more than five years Google has been offering its Safe Browsing Alerts for Network Administrators service that, like its counterpart for individual users, warns administrators about potentially unsafe URLs on their networks.

The service is designed to give administrators notice about malicious content on their networks so they have an opportunity to clean it up before being penalized for it by the Google's search engine algorithm or before it has had time to cause harm to Website visitors.

Starting this week, network administrations will get alerts on a broader range of threats on their network via Safe Browsing. In addition to alerts about URLs serving malware, Google will now warn administrators if its search engine crawlers find URLs serving up unwanted software as well as phishing and other social engineering scams from within a particular domain.

URLs that will trigger a Safe Browsing alert including sites that trick users into downloading software, revealing passwords or taking some other such unwanted action. Similarly, Google will now flag URLs pointing toward sites or software displaying dangerous behavior like modifying browser settings or serving up unwanted ads.

The goal is to give network administrators more actionable information for identifying and mitigating threats on their networks, said Nav Jagpal a software engineer at Google in a blog post this week. "By working together, we can make it more challenging and expensive for attackers to profit from user harm."

Google made Safe Browsing for Network Administrators first available in September 2010. The company claims that the service is currently being used to monitor 22,000 major networks, or roughly 40 percent of all active networks worldwide. Each autonomous system, according to the company, can host hundreds or even thousands of Websites. Around 1,300 administrators use the tool actively and Google sends about 250 reports a day to them, according to the company.

Google has noted that the network administrators to whom the safe browsing alerts are targeted may not always be the ones responsible for operating the sites on which malicious activity is observed. But by alerting them to the potentially unsafe activity on their networks, Google says that it hopes to be able to foster a safer Internet for everybody.

The company offers some guidelines and tips on what network operators and Webmasters can do to remediate any issues on their Websites that Google might identify as malicious or unwanted, but it says it cannot provide detailed information to address every situation identified by its search engine.

Google's safe browsing campaign is part of a broader campaign by the company to pressure Website owners and network administrators into adopting best practices for ensuring their sites are not used by hackers to deliver malware and other unwanted software to unsuspecting users.

Google's policy currently is to penalize risky Websites with lower visibility in search engine rankings. In some cases only segments of a Website that exhibit risky behavior are impacted. In other cases, an entire site may be affected. Sites that Google determines are risky for users appear in search engine results with a warning about being compromised or unsafe.

Last September, the company introduced new processes for administrators of such sites to reinstate their good standing in Google's search results.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.