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Summary:

Google labeled the entire Internet as malware earlier this morning (between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST), warning visitors that pretty much every web site could harm your computer. The news spread across the blogophere and Twitterverse pretty quickly. Many speculated that the problem arose […]

Google labeled the entire Internet as malware earlier this morning (between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST), warning visitors that pretty much every web site could harm your computer. The news spread across the blogophere and Twitterverse pretty quickly. Many speculated that the problem arose from Google’s efforts to integrate the malware-blocking functionality promoted by collaborator StopBadWare.org, a not-for-profit group. Google confirmed that in a blog post. “What happened? Very simply, human error,” said Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience:

Update: We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org 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.

Since each case needs to be individually researched, this list is maintained by humans, not algorithms. We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on 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.

I have two thoughts about this problem. First, it shows that Google has become the single point of failure in our digital lives, whether we like it or not. These problems — human errors as Marissa calls them — are not going to go away, as the company becomes bigger, offers more services and extends control on our digital lives.

Secondly (and more importantly), if all of us are going to be obsessing about Google’s epic fail on a Saturday Morning, then maybe the message should have said “this computer may harm your life.” OK people, go and enjoy the weekend. I am about to do the same!

  1. [...] with Google Reader.  It was there that I found my answer: Google had implemented a bad piece of code.  According to every source on the web, I was a victim of Google’s attempt to incorporate [...]

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  2. Really impressive that Marissa Mayer herself gave such a clear and transparent explanation of what went on, what they did to fix it, and what the impact was. If not for that detailed explanation, I think the public response could have been much worse. A lesson learned for all of us.

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  3. [...] seems to have bee testing out a new malware algorithm, however, which accidentally labeled the entire internet as malware.  They had this to say on their blog: If you did a Google search [...]

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  4. [...] course this raises lots of questions that range from the wisdom of letting Google be a single point of failure in our Internet lives, to it being no big deal–an obvious problem that shouldn’t confuse anyone that would [...]

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  5. Just to clarify, StopBadware.org is NOT the source of Google’s list of potentially harmful websites; Google generates and maintains this list internally. StopBadware.org then uses Google’s list of malicious websites for research purposes as part of a data-sharing agreement, and independently evaluates websites at the request of website owners to assist the owners in removing infections and/or getting their websites removed from Google’s blacklist.

    The StopBadware.org website did experience downtime as a result of the tremendous load that was placed on our infrastructure when suddenly, ALL Google searches displayed a link to the educational information we provide; however, this short outage would not have had any impact on Google’s own data, and could not have caused this morning’s bug.

    Please see Marissa Mayer’s updated blog post or our explanation at http://blog.stopbadware.org for more information.

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  6. @Brandon,

    That’s pretty much what my post says. But the additional information helps understand the issue much better. Thanks for stopping by to explain that.

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  7. Then maybe we should use more than just Google such as: Yahoo, Exalead, searchme, etc…

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  8. Sachin Balagopalan Saturday, January 31, 2009

    I agree – Let’s move on .. An embarrassment nevertheless … http://tinyurl.com/brvb5f

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  9. Boy, do I feel like an idiot. My daughter came to me this morning and told me of the message she kept getting even though she tried all kinds of different ways. I was busy with something else at the time so I couldn’t investigate, and she insisted that the problem wasn’t local, but my smug response was that it had to be the computer or our home network, as it just couldn’t be every search on Google getting that. I just went and ate some crow…

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