June 12, 2013

My (devastating) Malware Warning Experience

All of my blogs were unaccessible last Saturday through Monday.

A "Danger: Malware Ahead!" message replaced the home pages of textually.org, 3DPrintingBuzz.com and netsurf.ch, courtesy of Google Chrome, followed by Firefox and Safari as they day went on.

Chrome's message on netsurf.ch had a slightly different text with a defamatory claim describing textually.org as "a known malware distributor".

Let me point out that Textually has been covering cell phone usage since 2003 and is NOT a "known malware distributor"!

MalwareWarningn.png

Within hours all searches in Google for textually.org pages had the mention: "This site may harm your computer".

My wonderful tech person identified a line of code, installed through a back door of MovableType, removed it and updated to the latest version of MT.

The textually website resubmitted to Google Monday night got a quick response. By Tuesday morning all malware signs had been removed, from all browsers and search engines.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Verge had the same thing happen to them in February. In their case it was a malicious code that was installed through an ad network.

It has been my worst experience online in 18 years of publishing.

I have several thoughts:

Though in theory a warning message is welcome to protect viewers from exposure to malware, the fact that the warning message is automated, depicting worst case scenarios (identity theft, financial loss, permanent file deletion) - which may not be the case - can lead to unjustly devastating consequences to website owners, affecting their search engine ranking and more importantly, the loss of viewer confidence.

Google is using it's tremendous power to become the Internet police. And there is nothing we can do about it.

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