Google Accidentally Lists the Entire World Wide Web as Possibly Malicious

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“The site you are about to visit may harm your computer” warns a by-now familiar refrain from Google. And usually they have their reasons. But over the weekend, Google said that about the entire Internet. Oops.

If you searched Google for something – anything – over the weekend, you may have been surprised to find that even your favourite sites turned up in the Google search with that “the site you are about to visit may harm your computer” warning. This is the warning that Google displays when they have reason to believe that the site contains malware, or is a phishing or other malicious site.

It turns out that these sites are detected and added to the Google warning system manually – by which we mean they aren’t automatically detected on the fly by some algorithm. Rather, when Google identifies such a suspect site, they add it to a file, which is then updated and pushed to the Google search system.


On Saturday, just as on many days previous, they performed just such an update. However, unlike those other previous updates, this time the file had a possibly malicious site listed as simply “/”.

Now, a / in a URL, such as http://www.TheInternetPatrol.com/ is fine.

But a / all by itself is shorthand (in this context, to an Internet-connected computer) for “the entire Internet.”

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Oops.

And that’s how Google accidentally listed the entire Internet as “the entire Internet you are about to visit may harm your computer.”

Explained Marissa Mayer, a VP of Search Products with Google, “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.”

 

Mayer added that “Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.”

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
Click for amount options
Other Amount:
What info did you find here today?:

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