Earlier this morning, you may have been surprised to see that every Google search you performed resulted in links to sites which were, according to Google, potentially harmful to your computer. As it turns out, Google’s malware detection system got a little trigger-happy – due to a human error.
Google’s malware detector works via a partnership with the non-profit organisation StopBadware.org, who aid Google by supplying them with a list of sites known to install malware. Google updates these lists regularly, but sadly, the URL “/” got accidentally added to the list- effectively blacklisting every site on the internet (except YouTube, actually).
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. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., [all time sin PST] so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.”
The error was quickly fixed by Google, and the company has promised to review their policies regarding the malware detector blacklists, and assures us it won’t happen again.