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`Five-nines` alert: Google glitch labels entire Internet as `harmful to your computer`


01/02/2009

Google may have released tools to stop service providers from throttling customer connections, but we’re not sure who was monitoring the search giant when its process for stopping malware on some sites kept its search users from reaching all Web sites for about an hour this weekend.

The outage, which lasted about an hour, was nonetheless notable for just how widespread it was. Until Google fixed the glitch, all Google search queries returned the warning, “This site may harm your computer,” and links to all sites would not load.

Google cited human error as the source of the problem. Google works with a nonprofit company called StopBadware.org to come up with a blacklist of sites that are known to install malicious software when users visit. Google said it periodically updates the list and mistakenly added the URL of “/”, which the system read to include all URLs – essentially every site on the Internet.

“Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes,” wrote Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, on the Google blog.

Google initially blamed StopBadware.org for the bad data but later amended the post to say that the nonprofit doesn’t supply an actual data feed but rather worked with it to create a “criteria for maintaining [its own] list.”

StopBadware.org provided its account of the outing as well, noting that “Google generates its own list of badware URLs, and no data that we generate is supposed to affect the warnings in Google’s search listings.”

Google said it would put more robust file checks in place to prevent the problem from happening again.



 

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