Jul
22
2011

Google starts warning users of malware infection

A recent post on the Official Google Blog and cross-posted on the Google Online Security Blog will certainly please security researchers and anti-virus developers, as well as raise eyebrows for a lot of other people – Google has begun to warn users of its Search Engine when it believes they may be infected with a particular strain of malware.

Reportedly, it all started when Google performed routine maintenance on one of their data centres, and took a look at search patterns performed on their search engine handled by it. Google discovered that some of the traffic looked highly unusual, and brought it up with security engineers at several companies that were sending this modified traffic. Together, it was determined that the computers exhibiting this behavior were infected "with a particular strain of malicious software".

In a move to keep the users of Google services safe and prevent data theft – which would be a nightmare for everybody – Google has taken the unexpected step of warning its users when it detects a search request that its research indicates may mean the computer is infected with this malware. If such an infection is detected, this message will appear above their search results:

"Your computer appears to be infected"

"Your computer appears to be infected" - Google warns this user of a malware infection

It should be made clear that this is not comprehensive protection. Google only detects one particular strain of malware and provides advice on how to remove it from infected computers – it does not (and cannot) actually remove the malware itself, and other bad software may not be detected at all. According to Google, "The malware appears to have gotten onto users’ computers from one of roughly a hundred variants of fake antivirus, or “fake AV” software that has been in circulation for a while. We aren’t aware of a common name for the malware. We believe a couple million machines are affected by this malware."

Even with the limited protection it provides, Google believe this new step to keeping users safe has already resulted in tens of thousands of people being made aware of the malware that would not have been otherwise, and subsequently caused fewer lasting infections and made Google users much safer overall. Which is surely something to be commended.

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