Google punishes web backsliders in Chrome

Google said it will deal with website recidivists that have dodged the company's punishments for spreading malware and spawning email scams.

When Google flags sites for hosting malicious code or unwanted software, or running some kind of scam, users see warnings in Chrome and other browsers. The alerts appear as long as Google believes the site poses a threat.

But after making changes to align their sites with Google's "Safe Browsing" terms, webmasters may ask Google to lift the virtual embargo.

Not surprising, some took advantage of the mechanism for lifting the warnings. Sites would cease their illicit practices, but only long enough to get back into Google's good graces. Once Google gave the all-clear, the once-dirty-then-clean site would have a serious relapse and again distribute malware or spew phishing emails.

To close the loophole, Google added a new "Repeat Offender" website violation to its Safe Browsing rules.

"Repeat Offenders are websites that repeatedly switch between compliant and policy-violating behavior for the purpose of having a successful review and having warnings removed," said Brooke Heinichen, a Safe Browsing strategist, in a post to a company blog Tuesday.

That end-around was as if a restaurant scrubbed its kitchen at the order of a city health department, but as soon as the inspector left, had employees upend garbage pails.

The main impact on sites marked as repeaters: Webmasters may not request a re-check until 30 days have elapsed. The time-out was intended to discourage sites from repeating the dirty-clean again and again and again.

Thus, once a site is labeled a repeat offender, in-Chrome warnings will continue to appear for a minimum of 30 days.

Chrome last month was the most popular browser on personal computers by a wide margin. According to analytics vendor Net Applications, 55% of all browser users ran Chrome in October. That was nearly twice the next-most-popular browser's share; Microsoft's Internet Explorer (and successor, Edge) accounted for 28% of all browsers.

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