Sunday, February 01, 2009

"Stop Badware" is a major resource for webmasters, software developers; major search engine flap happened Saturday

There is a site developed as a partnership of “academic institutions, technology industry leaders and volunteers” that aims to communicate threats of malware, spyware, viruses, badware, etc. The site is called Stopbadware. One of its functions is to work with search engine companies and identify sites shown, with credible evidence, to have distributed harmful downloads or malware. It also identifies harmful applications or products.

The group also offers webmasters products to identify badware distributed advertently from their sites, possibly because of hacking, disgruntled employees, or even ads delivered to the sites, and even sites linked to in user-generated areas or comments. The group warns webmasters about the safest protocols to use for updating (it prefers SFTP and SSH to regular FTP or telnet), and describes a couple of possible stealth hacking attacks: “invisible frames” and “obfuscated code” both of which can sometimes be legitimate coding practices if intended. Generally, webmasters using shared hosting provided by large and well-established hosting companies with standard security procedures are much less likely to encounter problems. The business consolidation that has gone on in the web hosting industry does provide economy of scale that makes first rate security much more affordable and practical.

Visitors will want to study their “active alerts.” The Software Guidelines page is also important, link here. Note the definition of “badware website” at the bottom of this page.

Stopbadware could be used in conjunction with services like McAfee Site Advisor or My Web of Trust.

Multiple media resources indicate that Google mistakenly returned a stopbadware warning (“This site may harm your computer”) on “all” search engine results because of a software or server problem for about one hour early on Saturday January 31. (Actually, the problem has to do with regarding “/” as a URL; that reminds me of an old trap in assembler programming in my IBM assembler days back in the 1980s and 1990s.) Google’s corporate blog entry on the issue is here. (The "?!" in the posting is actually the notation used for "dubious move" in annotating chess games!) You can go from this link to Stopbadware’s explanation for even more details, at the end of the post.

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