Google punishes deceptive 'repeat offender' sites

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Google is here to protect the little people, right?

That is why the tech giant is instituting new rules for malicious websites that have previously been able to game Google's "Safe Browsing" system. Now, sites that clean up their act only to reimplement malicious code or software won't have it so easy.

In IT Blogwatch, we cautiously visit new websites. 

So what is happening? Gregg Keizer has the details:

When Google flags sites for hosting malicious code or unwanted software...users see warnings in Chrome and other browsers...But after making changes to align...with Google's "Safe Browsing" terms, webmasters may ask Google to lift the virtual embargo.
Not surprising, some took advantage of the mechanism for lifting...warnings. Sites would cease...illicit practices...only long enough to get back into Google's good graces. Once Google gave the all-clear, the once-dirty-then-clean site would...again distribute malware or spew phishing emails.

So what is Google doing about it? Liam Tung is in the know:

The search company has introduced a new class in its Safe Browsing...system called "repeat offenders"...for sites that appear to intentionally spread malware, unwanted software, or phishing pages.
Rules for repeat offenders will halt the review process that Google normally allows...Chrome will display a full page "deceptive" warning for those sites...repeat-offender sites will be stuck with the warning for 30 days before Google is willing to review it again.

We get why Google is doing this, but was there some sort of impetus? And what about site that are hacked and don't mean to spread malware? Brooke Heinichen from Google's safe browsing team fills us in:

We’ve observed that a small number of websites will cease harming users for long enough to have the warnings removed, and...then revert to harmful activity.
As a result of this gap, we have adjusted our policies to reduce risks borne by end-users...Please note that websites that are hacked will not be classified as Repeat Offenders; only sites that purposefully post harmful content will be subject to the policy.

Clearly, this change in policy seems like a good thing that will protect users. But is it all positive? Ian Paul isn't totally convinced:

Google’s harsh stand...will undoubtedly protect many people from being unwitting victims to malicious software. But I wonder if it’s...truly fair. It’s one thing to enforce a thirty-day waiting period for sites that deserve it, but what if a second offense is explicable...a 30-day sentence to purgatory without any chance of appeal seems almost guaranteed to ensnare sites that don’t deserve it.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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