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Chrome web browser toughens up, blocking “deceptive” downloads

Google’s Chrome web browser already warns users when it believes they are about to download software designed to infect their computer, or visit a website that appears to be malicious.

But straightforward malware isn’t the only problem that internet surfers regularly stumble across on the net. Another commonly-encountered nuisance are the programs that can pretend to do something useful on your PC, but carry the unexpected baggage of changing your homepage or meddling with your browser settings to ones that you don’t want.

The good news is that Google appears to realise just how much of a problem these deceptive downloads are, and how they are disliked by regular internet users.

In an official blog post published last week, Google security engineer Moheeb Abu Rajab said that Chrome would start to display a warning if it identified a download that might be planning to mess with your browsing experience.

“We’ll show a warning in Chrome whenever an attempt is made to trick you into downloading and installing such software. If you still wish to proceed despite the warning, you can access it from your Downloads list.”

Sometime this week, Google Chrome should start displaying the warning when it believes it has identified a download that attempts to change your browser settings or homepage without approval The warning will read: “filename.exe may harm your browsing experience, so Chrome has blocked it.”

Google’s Safe Browsing service already results in more than three million download warnings every week, protecting Chrome users from dangerous websites and downloads. If properly handled, expanding the range of files that will display warnings seems like a good move to me.

As Larry Seltzer of ZDNet reports, it’s unclear at the moment whether or when the new feature will be available to other browsers which also currently use Google’s Safe Browsing service. However, according to a report from The Register, the team at Mozilla who develop Firefox certainly seem keen to implement it:

“We are happy to see that Google is continuing to improve its detection of potentially unwanted software, especially since Firefox relies on Google Safe Browsing to block malicious downloads. We are investigating implementing this new extension, especially if it reduces unofficial rebundled software that targets Firefox and other well-known publishers through Google search ads.”

Bitdefender users will be pleased to hear that Google Chrome’s growing protection capabilities can run alongside other solutions – such as Bitdefender’s free TrafficLight browser addon which can provide an additional layer of protection against internet-borne threats.

About The Author

Security analyst

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats. Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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