Search engine giants Google have introduced a new feature which alerts punters about search results that could potentially lead them to dodgy sites with malicious code.
Using data from the Stop Badware Coalition – a non-profit organisation who also enjoy support from Sun Microsystems and Chinese PC maker Lenovo – Google will now flag up sites that could be hosting malicious software.
Whenever a suspect link is clicked on from Google’s search engine results, punters will be whisked off to a warning page which says, “Warning – the site you are about to visit may harm your computer!”
If that hasn’t already scared the bejesus out of surfers, the page suggests that users trot along to StopBadware.org in double quick time and, “learn more about malware and how to protect yourself.”
The ‘interrupt page’ also offers options for users to return to the search page and select a different result, try another search, or – if they’re feeling brave/stupid enough – continue on to the potentially dodgy site.
In time, Google says it will replace the generic “DANGER WILL ROBINSON!” alerts with pages containing more specific information about the iffy Web sites.
285 million dodgy clicks a month
It is hoped that this new initiative will go some way to solving the problem that is partly created by the search engines themselves.
With search engine results routinely displaying links to sites stuffed full of spyware and adware, it is reckoned that US surfers arrive at on malicious sites about 285 million times per month – all from clicking on search results from the five major search engines.
Curtain twitching for surfers
John Palfrey, a professor at the Harvard Law School and one of the main movers behind the scheme, explained the Coalition’s motives: “We’re not going to say don’t do it. What we want to do is basically give people some more information about what might happen to their computer.”
Likening the scheme to a “Neighbourhood Watch” programme, the program is a collaborative effort between Harvard and Oxford University, and invites surfers to report sites that have malicious code on them whenever they find them.
All reported sites are then checked by a human before being flagged as a wrong ‘un.
So far, Google is the only major search engine to sign up to the Stop Badware Coalition, but Palfrey hopes that others will start to use their database of dodgy sites too.