Google Safe Browsing is adding a new feature to help protect us from websites trying to trick us into downloading or clicking on buttons we don’t have to. Almost everybody has encountered and perhaps clicked a fake download button. The sort of button that deceives one into believing that clicking that prominent download button would automatically begin your download. Closely related to these download buttons are links appearing on websites promising you the world if you click on them. They look genuine.
But these links are there to deceive you.
These kinds of traps and tricks are collectively referred to as social engineering ads. Which on the face of it, seems like a decent tag for something so deceitful. It is this social engineering phenomenon that Google safe browsing intends to tackle. Launched last month, Google safe browsing pledged to deal with social engineering ads in all its forms on the Internet as long as you use Chrome browser on your PC or Android device. Those using Firefox and Safari can also get the benefits of this application as Google intends to share security information with these browsers too.
Google Safe Browsing was launched almost a decade ago to help secure us as we navigate the Web. Over the years, it has continuously being improved to try and stay in-step with new security challenges on the internet. This is how Lucas Ballard, a manager in the Google Safe Browsing team announced the new development in a blog post:
“In November, we announced that Safe Browsing would protect you from social engineering attacks – deceptive tactics that try to trick you into doing something dangerous, like installing unwanted software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers, or credit cards). You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we’re expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads.”
Apparently, the most important aspect of the new feature is that it targets embedded content. Embedded contents are really a nuisance on the Internet. They are very difficult to detect because they blend easily with the web page or web site one is visiting. For instance, they can replace the real content and look legit in every possible way. This makes them really difficult to tackle.
We’ve all encountered embedded contents before. They appear sometimes as innocent looking ads and deceive users into installing fake updates or applications we don’t really need or don’t exist for that matter. The most common embedded contents appear on websites as download buttons. They are hard to distinguish from the real download buttons because they are most times placed beside, above or under the real button. Users are then confused on which one to click. Even Internet savvy users easily fall prey to this cheap but sophisticated trick.
Google Safe Browsing basically now alerts us about such malicious contents if we visit sites containing them. Also, Google would inform the owners of the websites about the presence of such embedded contents on a particular Web page. And if these embedded contents become persistent on a particular website, Google Safe Browsing marks the whole website as a potentially risky website to visit. This warning would be brought down once the website administrator(s) remove the malicious embedded content.
This new addition to Google safe browsing couldn’t have come sooner. Embedded contents are some of the biggest threat to navigating the Web safely. If it works efficiently, I guess the fear of clicking some download buttons would be gone for ever.
photo credits: techworm.net; googleblog.blogspot.com