Google enacts stricter penalties on sites that continuously spread malware

Google has been protecting users against dangerous and harmful websites for many years by warning web surfers when they accidentally click on links that could lead them to sites that spread malware or attempt to phish for your private information. But many sites figured out how to work around Google’s policies. Instead of cleaning up their act, they would instead temporarily make adjustments so their site would appear to be compliant when Google verified it, then return to harming users once Google’s warnings were removed. Now, Google says it’s putting a stop to this behavior by classifying these sites as “repeat offenders” and enforcing stricter penalties.

In the past, when a site was in violation of Google’s Malware, Unwanted Software, Phishing, and Social Engineering Policies, it would display a warning to web searchers until Google could verify that the site was no longer harmful. This verification could be triggered automatically, or it could be made at the request of the site’s webmaster, Google explains in an announcement.

But that’s changing. Starting today, sites that switch between compliant and policy-violating behavior will be labeled as “repeat offenders,” and will not be able to request re-verification for 30 days. That means for an entire month after being flagged and labeled, these sites will continue to show warnings to web searchers.

These warnings indicate that web users should avoid the site in question, and redirect you back to Google’s search results. That leads to dramatically decreased traffic for the sites in question.

Only after the month is up, will the webmaster be able to request a review of their flagged site.

The idea here is to close a gap in protection that existed with the prior policy. It will no longer be lucrative for these sites to only pretend to go complaint, as they’ll instead be continuously flagged for extended periods of time.

Google says the policy won’t apply to those sites that are hacked, only those that spread malware and other harmful content intentionally.