Google Interstitial “This site may harm your computer” on January 31

Personal Experiences

If you have been online between 11:00PM (GMT+8) and 11:30PM (GMT+8) yesterday, January 31, 2009, and have searched something using Google, you definitely experienced the “This site may harm your computer” results for every search query you’ve had.

Even googling the word “Google” will give you the same results. The format of the link was<search url here>

My first reaction was to check if my computer is infected by a malware. Results are negative. Checking Raven’s machine yielded similar result: Google seems to be flagging all sites as possible malicious site. After some twenty minutes of troubleshooting, my machine can successfully search via google with no errors. Same is true for Raven’s machine. So I guess it was some technical glitch somewhere out there.

Google confirmed something: Its a human error and they fixed it immediately. Quoting Googleblogs:

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message “This site may harm your computer” if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. 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.

I understand that every once in a while a technology software/service provider make some minor glitch in their systems. As the saying goes… Nobody’s perfect, and the important thing here is that they accept the problem, face it and move on. Google is very honest and direct to the point in handling the issue. They are also fast in fixing the problem. My hats off to Google!