Five years after it was first introduced, Google’s Safe Browsing program continues to provide an invaluable service to the 600 million Chrome, Firefox, and Safari users, as well as those searching for content through the company’s eponymous search engine.
According to Google Security Team member Niels Provos, the program detects about 9,500 new malicious websites and pops up several million warnings every day to Internet users.
“Approximately 12-14 million Google Search queries per day show our warning to caution users from going to sites that are currently compromised. Once a site has been cleaned up, the warning is lifted,” he pointed out, and added that they provide malware warnings for about 300 thousand downloads per day through their download protection service for Chrome.
Webmasters, ISPs and CERTs are also the beneficiaries of the program, and receive warnings about compromised websites if they sign up for them.
“By protecting Internet users, webmasters, ISPs, and Google over the years, we’ve built up a steadily more sophisticated understanding of web-based malware and phishing. These aren’t completely solvable problems because threats continue to evolve, but our technologies and processes do, too,” he says.
Phishing pages have become more diverse and extremely targeted, remain online for a lesser period than before, and have also become a way to distribute malware. But most worryingly, their number rises with each passing month.
Websites leading to malware are still often legitimate websites that got compromised and redirect the users to other attack sites, but websites that are specifically built to distribute malware are also used in increasing numbers. Still, the total number shows a downward trend.
“As companies have designed browsers and plugins to be more secure over time, malware purveyors have also employed social engineering, where the malware author tries to deceive the user into installing malicious software without the need for any software vulnerabilities,” provos says.
“While we see socially engineered attacks still trailing behind drive by downloads in frequency, this is a fast-growing category likely due to improved browser security.”
He concluded by saying that even though Google is doing the best it can do to protect its customers, the users can also help themselves by not ignoring the warnings that they are faced with, by flagging bad sites, and by registering their website with Google Webmaster Tools in order to receive warnings if their sites get compromised.