At the start of 2006, a project was started aimed at reducing the risks presented by malicious software and websites that deceive users into installing such programs. The Stop Badware coalition (www.stopbadware.org), currently run by Harvard and Oxford universities, is primarily sponsored by Google, PC maker Lenovo and Sun Microsystems.
Eight months after the initiative started, Google has started utilizing the coalition’s efforts to police their results. Whilst not banning malicious sites, users who click on links to sites listed in the Stop Badware coalition’s database will be presented with a warning on Google.
Initial warnings will be a generic web page alert, but as more research into the malicious sites is completed, the warnings presented will include more detailed reports, offering specifics about the dangerous software used on the website.
For those unsure, Badware is the term used to describe a variety of different kinds of malicious software including Spyware, malware and deceptive adware. Most of you will have downloaded some program in the past which littered your computer with pop-ups and suddenly caused your machine to run considerably slower. Many of these programs also secretly transfer personal information from your machine back to software creators.
A May 2006 report, sponsored by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, suggested about 4-6% of websites offered through search results presented users with malicious software and content. But when you look at specific searches such as “Free Screensavers”, this figure rises to a staggering 64%.
The Stop Badware initiative is a great security move; especially consider our reliance on search engines to navigate through the internet. It would be great if all the major search engines like Yahoo!, MSN and Ask could rally together to create a unified taskforce. To find out more about the Stop Badware coalition, visit their website and get behind the cause.