Google to Red Flag ‘Repeat Offender’ Websites

Google’s Safe Browsing program expands to include “Repeat Offender” websites in blacklisting program.

Google upped the ante on Tuesday on its Safe Browsing efforts to warn users of questionable websites with the introduction of a Repeat Offender designation.

The designation, Google says, builds on the company’s existing Safe Browsing warning system that blocks access to sites that are in violation of its malware, unwanted software, phishing, and social engineering policies. The Repeat Offender label, Google said, will be given to websites Google concludes has repeatedly violated its Safe Browsing rules.

Google says the Repeat Offender verification can be triggered automatically, or can be requested by a webmaster via Google’s Search Console. Once Google determines a site is a Repeat Offender, users attempting to visit the website are presented the red Google Safe Browsing warning page alerting them they are attempting to visit a possible dangerous site.

“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,” Google said. “Over time, we’ve observed that a small number of websites will cease harming users for long enough to have the warnings removed, and will then revert to harmful activity,” Google said.

Google introduced Safe Browsing in 2005 with the goal of protecting users from harmful websites peddling malware, phishing ploys and social engineering schemes. Over the past decade the program has evolved and today approximately 1 billion Internet users are protected by Google’s Safe Browsing service on a growing number of platforms including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Google Chrome. According to the company’s Transparency Report, released earlier this year, more than 57 million users attempted to visit an unsafe site and were notified by the service.

Once a website is deemed a Repeat Offender, webmasters will have to wait 30 days before they can request an additional review of the site, Google said.

“Google Safe Browsing helps protect users by showing warnings on dangerous sites or dangerous download files. Safe Browsing also notifies webmasters when their websites are compromised by malicious actors and helps them diagnose and resolve the problem so that their visitors stay safer,” according to Google’s Search Console.

Google notes that it will not classify hacked websites as Repeat Offenders. “Only sites that purposefully post harmful content will be subject to the policy,” Google said.

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