Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

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
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
SOC 2s & Third-Party Assessments: How to Prevent Them from Being Used in a Data Breach Lawsuit
Beth Burgin Waller, Chair, Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice , Woods Rogers PLC,  12/5/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3656
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
JBoss KeyCloak: XSS in login-status-iframe.html
CVE-2013-0293
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
oVirt Node: Lock screen accepts F2 to drop to shell causing privilege escalation
CVE-2013-1793
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
openstack-utils openstack-db has insecure password creation
CVE-2013-2095
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
rubygem-openshift-origin-controller: API can be used to create applications via cartridge_cache.rb URI.prase() to perform command injection
CVE-2019-19698
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-10
marc-q libwav through 2017-04-20 has a NULL pointer dereference in wav_content_read() at libwav.c.