The Safe Browsing Service already warns Chrome users when they attempt to access known rogue websites, phishing scams or malicious software. But from next week Google will extend the breadth of protection to cover a wider range of software distributed online.
“You should be able to use the web safely, without fear that malware could take control of your computer, or that you could be tricked into giving up personal information in a phishing scam,” explains Moheeb Abu Rajab, Staff Engineer of Google Security in the wittily titled blog post ‘That’s Not The Download You’re Looking For‘.
More than three million download warnings are flagged up by Google each week, helping to keep over a billion users safe. One expects that figure to rise considerably as more unsavoury apps start being kept at arm’s length.
What is Deceptive Software?
Google describes deceptive software as being “programs disguised as a helpful download that actually make unexpected changes to your computer—for instance, switching your homepage or other browser settings to ones you don’t want.”
I’ve come across many websites over the years that try to trick, trigger or lure me into downloading a piece of software. Sometimes these are touted as something I need, be it a ‘video player’ or download accelerator, other times masquerading as well known applications.
Not all ‘deceptive software’ is innocuous. At one point or another most of us will have installed an application unaware that, thanks to a pre-ticked checkbox in the installer, will also saddle us with a boatload of unwanted extras.
Some common culprits of this covert behaviour include torrent programmes, download ‘accelerators’ and media players, particularly those that are either ‘required’ by a website to access content or trigger a download automatically.
How The Protection Will Work
To help, Google will begin to alert Chrome users “whenever an attempt is made to trick you into downloading and installing such software.”
But before anyone cries ‘control thief’, Google explains that it will still be possible to continue a flagged download in spite of a warning, thereby leaving it up to the user whether they’re willing to risk infecting their computer with potential nastiness.