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How the Google malware warning system can help minimize infections

Eventually hackers will manipulate Google’s malware warning feature, but it may help prevent future infections.

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Do you think the new Google malware warning feature will actually help prevent malware? If hackers are able to manipulate Google results to their benefit, they'd be able to manipulate this as well, right?

More systems and companies are taking steps to actively notify users in contextually relevant ways that they are infected with malware, help them get their systems cleaned from malware and ideally harden their systems against future malware infection. Many times users do not know they have been infected with malware because the malware has circumvented the local security controls (the antivirus software) that should have notified the user the system is infected. The user may not even know they are infected until a large sum of money is transferred out of their bank account. The notification needs to be contextually relevant, meaning the user must understand why the warning is important, what action they should take to correct the problem and should explain this in terms they understand.

Hackers and malware will adapt to manipulate the Google malware warning system, which displays a message to users at the top of Google search results pages when Google detects what may be a malware infection on the user's system, so it is not displayed like other warnings that have been circumvented.

To be clear, Google’s warning to users of infected systems will not remove or stop current malware, but it does provide an additional check that could provide some notification. There is potential for false positives, but even a false positive to an end user notifying them they need to check the security of their system would not be harmful. However, a false positive may confuse the user and cause them to perform a security check that is not necessary. In a network behind a NAT, this notification might produce more false positives, since identifying individual systems behind the NAT to ensure only infected systems are notified could be a challenge.

This was first published in November 2011

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