Google sharpens malware alerts for webmasters

Google has improved a service that notifies webmasters that their sites contain malware

Google has enhanced the way it notifies webmasters that their sites contain malware, improving on a service the company launched in November of last year in a partnership with The Stop Badware Coalition.

Google has begun providing more detailed alerts and to send these notifications via e-mail to webmasters, according to a posting Monday on an official Google blog.

Previously, Google only informed webmasters that their sites had been identified as having malware and made generic suggestions for fixing the problem. Now, the company also points webmasters to specific offending pages from their sites that Google has determined contain malicious components.

"This can be helpful when the malicious content is hard to find," the posting reads. "By providing example URLs, webmasters are one step closer to diagnosing the problem and ultimately re-securing their sites."

Before, Google notified webmasters by placing a note in the site's summary page in Google's Webmaster Tools site, but now it is sending the alert via e-mail as well.

Google flags Web sites according to guidelines set by The Stop Badware Coalition. Webmasters who feel their sites have been incorrectly flagged as having malware need to contact the coalition and request a review.

In August, and also in conjunction with The Stop Badware Coalition, Google started displaying malware alerts for users of its search engine.

When users attempt to click over to a Web site considered to be potentially dangerous, Google shows an alert page that informs them of the possible risk and gives them the option to click back to the results page or continue on to the questionable Web site. However, these alerts sometimes anger webmasters who are convinced their sites don't contain malware.

The Stop Badware Coalition is a nonprofit organization led by Harvard University and the University of Oxford and backed by Google, Lenovo Group and Sun Microsystems.

A study published in May of last year by security vendor McAfee's SiteAdvisor unit found that U.S. Internet users land on malicious Web sites about 285 million times per month by clicking on search results from the five major search engines, which are operated by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN unit, IAC/InterActiveCorp's Ask.com and Time Warner's AOL.

Malicious Web sites are those that download spyware and adware to visitors' PCs, exploit security vulnerabilities and attempt to scam users and include them in spam lists, among other dangers.

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