Google has added a new security feature to its search engine that promises to increase the number of Web page results that are flagged as potentially having been compromised by hackers.
The move is an expansion of a program Google has had in place for years, which appends a “This site may harm your computer” link in search results for sites that Google has determined are hosting malicious software. The new notation – a warning that reads “This site may be compromised” – is designed to include pages that may not be malicious but which indicate that the site might not be completely under the control of the legitimate site owner — such as when spammers inject invisible links or redirects to pharmacy Web sites.
Google also will be singling out sites that have had pages quietly added by phishers. While spam usually is routed through hacked personal computers, phishing Web pages most often are added to hacked, legitimate sites: The Anti-Phishing Working Group, an industry consortium, estimates that between 75 and 80 percent of phishing sites are legitimate sites that have been hacked and seeded with phishing kits designed to mimic established e-commerce and banking sites.
It will be interesting to see if Google can speed up the process of re-vetting sites that were flagged as compromised, once they have been cleaned up by the site owners. In years past, many people who have had their sites flagged by Google for malware infections have complained that the search results warnings persist for weeks after sites have been scrubbed.
Denis Sinegubko, founder and developer at Unmask Parasites, said Google has a lot of room for improvement on this front.
“They know about it, and probably work internally on the improvements but they don’t disclose such info,” Sinegubko said. “This process is tricky. In some cases it may be very fast. But in others it may take unreasonably long. It uses the same form for reconsideration requests, but [Google says] it should be faster…less than two weeks for normal reconsideration requests.”