Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Human Error Caused Google warning "This site may harm your computer"
Saturday, I was using Google search, suddenly a search result started showing every site "This site may harm your computer". I was shocked. Then repeated search with the name of some reliable sites, again same message. Then I typed Google in query box and hit search. Astonished to see the result. It was too "This site may harm your computer". I thought something happened to my computer. I took a snapshot of the result page and turned off the computer. After sometime when I again logged in into Google the error was not there. It comfirmed it was some error caused by Google. However it disturbed me for a while. I came to know about the error next day in news paper reports. Here is the snapshot of the page. It could be a rare snapshot. Click on image to view it clearly.
Google explained it "Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.
We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file."