Firefox and IE both have site blocking (or at least, site warning) built into their current iterations. Google also does site blocking now. All do site blocking based on some metric, known only to them, that tells them that a site is more likely than not to be a malicious site, such as a phishing site, or a site loaded with spyware.
The problem with site blocking browsers and site blocking search engines such as Google is that sometimes they get it wrong. In fact, this has happened to us when, for a period of time, and for no good reason that we could discern, I.E. started blocking our Crunchy Reviews site as a potentially harmful site.
That was just one site.
But this past weekend, Google, through their Firefox site blocking algorithm, managed to block thousands of sites, by blocking the entire mine.nu domain.
Now, the mine.nu domain is simply, in essence, a redirector. Anybody can create a subdomain at mine.nu and have it point to their actual website. This is a free service that has been offered by DynDNS for years. Among other things, it allows people who don’t actually have their own static IP addresses with their own servers to still have a web page or site.
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And, again, thousands of people do just that. The Berry Linux folks use mine.nu, as does a Linux and FreeBSD blog. Many many people use mine.nu.
You can see how it might be problematic, then, when a giant like Google – with their ever-so-widely deployed FireFox – decides to block the entire mine.nu domain. Suddenly, thousands of legitimate sites were unreachable.
Now, we can assume that Google did this because they found some phishing or other malicious sites within the mine.nu hierarchy of subdomains. But blocking the entire domain just isn’t the right way to go about things.
And not to pick on Google, because of course this can – and does – happen with any browser or search engine that does site blocking.
The question is, how to protect people from themselves – and how to protect people from the people who aren’t protected from themselves. It’s not as simple as just letting everyone go to all the phishing sites, and hoping they’ll learn. Because it isn’t just them that gets impacted when they get hit with the latest virus, or their identity is stolen. For each instance of viruses, or stolen identity, several – if not dozens or hundreds – of other people are affected.
But the flip side, blocking innocent sites by the thousands, well, that’s just plain wrong.
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