Risk
2/1/2009
08:40 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Typo Causes Malware Warning Misfire

Millions of confused Google users encountered a warning page Saturday morning.

A misplaced "/" on Saturday morning prompted Google's malware warning system to flag every search-results link as dangerous.

The snafu lasted from between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST. Confronted by a warning page placed between the flagged link and the destination site, millions of confused Google users followed an explanatory link that led to StopBadware.org, the organization that helps Google establish criteria for designating a site malicious. The surge of traffic led to what StopBadware likened to a "denial-of-service attack" and proved to be more than the site could handle, taking the site offline temporarily.

In a blog post shortly after the incident, Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of search products and user experience, apologized and attributed the problem to 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," she said. "We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. 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. We periodically update that list and released one such update to 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."

The mistake also rippled through Google's Gmail service, which uses the same filtering system for identifying incoming e-mail as spam. On Saturday, Rishi Chandra, senior product manager for Google Apps, said in a blog post that the company was working on an automated fix to move legitimate messages that had been erroneously labeled spam back into Gmail users' in-boxes. He advises those expecting critical messages to check their Gmail spam folders while Google worked a way to refilter its users' e-mail. As of Sunday, Chandra said that the fix had been implemented but he cautioned that users should still check messages identified as spam that arrived between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. PST on Saturday.

Ironically, Google's paranoid vision of a Web where every site is dangerous isn't far from the way security companies see things. An IBM X-Force security report planned for release on Monday warns that Web vulnerabilities are at an all-time high and that hackers have become adept at compromising legitimate sites. Given the speed at which malicious code can appear and disappear from the Web, something noted by security researchers at AVG Technologies, it appears that a great many sites that aren't marked as malicious should be. Perhaps Google's exaggeration of online malice will look overly conservative in a year or two.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Five Things Every Business Executive Should Know About Cybersecurity
Don't get lost in security's technical minutiae - a clearer picture of what's at stake can help align business imperatives with technology execution.
Flash Poll
Dark Reading Strategic Security Report: The Impact of Enterprise Data Breaches
Dark Reading Strategic Security Report: The Impact of Enterprise Data Breaches
Social engineering, ransomware, and other sophisticated exploits are leading to new IT security compromises every day. Dark Reading's 2016 Strategic Security Survey polled 300 IT and security professionals to get information on breach incidents, the fallout they caused, and how recent events are shaping preparations for inevitable attacks in the coming year. Download this report to get a look at data from the survey and to find out what a breach might mean for your organization.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Security researchers are finding that there's a growing market for the vulnerabilities they discover and persistent conundrum as to the right way to disclose them. Dark Reading editors will speak to experts -- Veracode CTO and co-founder Chris Wysopal and HackerOne co-founder and CTO Alex Rice -- about bug bounties and the expanding market for zero-day security vulnerabilities.