Google Safe Browsing is a service offered by Google that provides lists of URLs for websites that contain malware or phishing content. This is known as a Blacklist. The Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox web browsers all use the Google Safe Browsing blacklist to check pages for potential threats.
According to a Google report from June 2012, some 600 million Internet users were using this service, either directly or indirectly. This figure will have grown exponentially since then.
Google rolled out its Safe Browsing service eight years ago to protect internet users against traditional phishing attacks on the web. When you click on a website that contains phishing or malware, you will get a red warning page. You can ignore the warning and click through to the website, but you do this at your own risk.
The Safe Browsing feature is normally switched on by default, but you can check the settings of your relevant web browser to make sure.
Below are some screenshots of the warning screens and settings windows for the most common web browsers.
- Block reported attack sites: Firefox will check if the website is attempting to interfere with normal computer functions or send personal data about you to unauthorized parties over the Internet (this is often referred to as Malware).
- Block reported web forgeries: Firefox will check if the website is attempting to mislead you into providing personal information (this is often referred to as Phishing).
Apple Safari (iOS)
Apple Safari (Mac)
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer uses its own blacklist, called Smart Screen, to manage safe browsing.
The scope of online security attacks is constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. To keep up with demand, Google enhanced their Safe Browsing to encompass deceptive social engineering attacks on the web. In February 2016, Google released the following statement:
“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). Google has now bolstered Safe Browsing further by warning users of embedded content like ads that pretend to be from a legitimate company to get users to download dodgy unwanted software.”
- The Google Safe Browsing blacklist is comprehensive, but don’t assume you are getting full protection. You still need to have reputable Anti-Virus software installed and use common sense when visiting websites.
- At times, legitimate websites might end up on the “blocked list” for Google Safe Browsing, if the website has been hacked, and used to distribute malware or phishing. The website owner would need to take steps to get their website off the list. We will provide information on how to do this in an upcoming blog article.