Tag Archives: hacked sites

Updates to the Google Safe Browsing’s Site Status Tool

(Cross-posted from the Google Security Blog)
Google Safe Browsing gives users tools to help protect themselves from web-based threats like malware, unwanted software, and social engineering. We are best known for our warnings, which users see when they attempt to navigate to dangerous sites or download dangerous files. We also provide other tools, like the Site Status Tool, where people can check the current safety status of a web page (without having to visit it).

We host this tool within Google’s Safe Browsing Transparency Report. As with other sections in Google’s Transparency Report, we make this data available to give the public more visibility into the security and health of the online ecosystem. Users of the Site Status Tool input a webpage (as a URL, website, or domain) into the tool, and the most recent results of the Safe Browsing analysis for that webpage are returned...plus references to troubleshooting help and educational materials.



We’ve just launched a new version of the Site Status Tool that provides simpler, clearer results and is better designed for the primary users of the page: people who are visiting the tool from a Safe Browsing warning they’ve received, or doing casual research on Google’s malware and phishing detection. The tool now features a cleaner UI, easier-to-interpret language, and more precise results. We’ve also moved some of the more technical data on associated ASes (autonomous systems) over to the malware dashboard section of the report.

 While the interface has been streamlined, additional diagnostic information is not gone: researchers who wish to find more details can drill-down elsewhere in Safe Browsing’s Transparency Report, while site-owners can find additional diagnostic information in Search Console. One of the goals of the Transparency Report is to shed light on complex policy and security issues, so, we hope the design adjustments will indeed provide our users with additional clarity.

#NoHacked: A year in review

We hope your year started out safe and secure!
We wanted to share with you a summary of our 2016 work as we continue our #NoHacked campaign. Let’s start with some trends on hacked sites from the past year.

State of Website Security in 2016

First off, some unfortunate news. We’ve seen an increase in the number of hacked sites by approximately 32% in 2016 compared to 2015. We don’t expect this trend to slow down. As hackers get more aggressive and more sites become outdated, hackers will continue to capitalize by infecting more sites.
On the bright side, 84% webmasters who do apply for reconsideration are successful in cleaning their sites. However, 61% of webmasters who were hacked never received a notification from Google that their site was infected because their sites weren't verified in Search Console. Remember to register for Search Console if you own or manage a site. It’s the primary channel that Google uses to communicate site health alerts.

More Help for Hacked Webmasters


We’ve been listening to your feedback to better understand how we can help webmasters with security issues. One of the top requests was easier to understand documentation about hacked sites. As a result we’ve been hard at work to make our documentation more useful.
First, we created new documentation to give webmasters more context when their site has been compromised. Here is a list of the new help documentation:
Next, we created clean up guides for sites affected by known hacks. We’ve noticed that sites often get affected in similar ways when hacked. By investigating the similarities, we were able to create clean up guides for specific known type of hack. Below is a short description of each of the guides we created:
Gibberish Hack: The gibberish hack automatically creates many pages with non-sensical sentences filled with keywords on the target site. Hackers do this so the hacked pages show up in Google Search. Then, when people try to visit these pages, they’ll be redirected to an unrelated page, like a porn site. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.
Japanese Keywords Hack: The Japanese keywords hack typically creates new pages with Japanese text on the target site in randomly generated directory names. These pages are monetized using affiliate links to stores selling fake brand merchandise and then shown in Google search. Sometimes the accounts of the hackers get added in Search Console as site owners. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.
Cloaked Keywords Hack: The cloaked keywords and link hack automatically creates many pages with non-sensical sentence, links, and images. These pages sometimes contain basic template elements from the original site, so at first glance, the pages might look like normal parts of the target site until you read the content. In this type of attack, hackers usually use cloaking techniques to hide the malicious content and make the injected page appear as part of the original site or a 404 error page. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.

Prevention is Key


As always it’s best to take a preventative approach and secure your site rather than dealing with the aftermath. Remember a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You can read more about how to identify vulnerabilities on your site in our hacked help guide. We also recommend staying up-to-date on releases and announcements from your Content Management System (CMS) providers and software/hardware vendors.

Looking Forward

Hacking behavior is constantly evolving, and research allows us to stay up to date on and combat the latest trends. You can learn about our latest research publications in the information security research site. Highlighted below are a few specific studies specific to website compromises:
If you have feedback or specific questions about compromised sites, the Webmaster Help Forums has an active group of Googlers and technical contributors that can address your questions and provide additional technical support.

More Safe Browsing Help for Webmasters

(Crossposted from the Google Security Blog.)
For more than nine years, Safe Browsing has helped webmasters via Search Console with information about how to fix security issues with their sites. This includes relevant Help Center articles, example URLs to assist in diagnosing the presence of harmful content, and a process for webmasters to request reviews of their site after security issues are addressed. Over time, Safe Browsing has expanded its protection to cover additional threats to user safety such as Deceptive Sites and Unwanted Software.

To help webmasters be even more successful in resolving issues, we’re happy to announce that we’ve updated the information available in Search Console in the Security Issues report.


The updated information provides more specific explanations of six different security issues detected by Safe Browsing, including malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads, and uncommon downloads. These explanations give webmasters more context and detail about what Safe Browsing found. We also offer tailored recommendations for each type of issue, including sample URLs that webmasters can check to identify the source of the issue, as well as specific remediation actions webmasters can take to resolve the issue.

We on the Safe Browsing team definitely recommend registering your site in Search Console even if it is not currently experiencing a security issue. We send notifications through Search Console so webmasters can address any issues that appear as quickly as possible.

Our goal is to help webmasters provide a safe and secure browsing experience for their users. We welcome any questions or feedback about the new features on the Google Webmaster Help Forum, where Top Contributors and Google employees are available to help.

For more information about Safe Browsing’s ongoing work to shine light on the state of web security and encourage safer web security practices, check out our summary of trends and findings on the Safe Browsing Transparency Report. If you’re interested in the tools Google provides for webmasters and developers dealing with hacked sites, this video provides a great overview.

Detect and get rid of unwanted sneaky mobile redirects

In many cases, it is OK to show slightly different content on different devices. For example, optimizing the smaller space of a smartphone screen can mean that some content, like images, will have to be modified. Or you might want to store your website’s menu in a navigation drawer (find documentation here) to make mobile browsing easier and more effective. When implemented properly, these user-centric modifications can be understood very well by Google.

The situation is similar when it comes to mobile-only redirect. Redirecting mobile users to improve their mobile experience (like redirecting mobile users from example.com/url1 to m.example.com/url1) is often beneficial to them. But redirecting mobile users sneakily to a different content is bad for user experience and is against Google’s webmaster guidelines.


A frustrating experience: The same URL shows up in search results pages on desktop and on mobile. When a user clicks on this result on their desktop computer, the URL opens normally. However, when clicking on the same result on a smartphone, a redirect happens and an unrelated URL loads.

Who implements these mobile-only sneaky redirects?

There are cases where webmasters knowingly decide to put into place redirection rules for their mobile users. This is typically a webmaster guidelines violation, and we do take manual action against it when it harms Google users’ experience (see last section of this article).   

But we’ve also observed situations where mobile-only sneaky redirects happen without site owners being aware of it:

  • Advertising schemes that redirect mobile users specifically
    A script/element installed to display ads and monetize content might be redirecting mobile users to a completely different site without the webmaster being aware of it.
  • Mobile redirect as a result of the site being a target of hacking
    In other cases, if your website has been hacked, a potential result can be redirects to spammy domains for mobile users only.

How do I detect if my site is doing sneaky mobile redirects?

  1. Check if you are redirected when you navigate to your site on your smartphone
    We recommend you to check the mobile user experience of your site by visiting your pages from Google search results with a smartphone. When debugging, mobile emulation in desktop browsers is handy, mostly because you can test for many different devices. You can, for example, do it straight from your browser in Chrome, Firefox or Safari (for the latter, make sure you have enabled the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” feature).
  1. Listen to your users
    Your users could see your site in a different way than you do. It’s always important to pay attention to user complaints, so you can hear of any issue related to mobile UX.
  2. Monitor your users in your site’s analytics data
    Unusual mobile user activity could be detected by looking at some of the data held in your website's analytics data. For example, looking at the average time spent on your site by your mobile users could be a good signal to watch: if all of a sudden, your mobile users (and only them) start spending much less time on your site than they used to, there might be an issue related to mobile redirections.

    To be aware of wide changes in mobile user activity as soon as they happen, you can for example set up Google Analytics alerts. For example, you can set an alert to be warned in case of a sharp drop in average time spent on your site by mobile users, or a drop in mobile users (always take into account that big changes in those metrics are not a clear, direct signal that your site is doing mobile sneaky redirects).

I’ve detected sneaky redirects for my mobile users, and I did not set it up: what do I do?

  1. Make sure that your site is not hacked.
    Check the Security Issues tool in the Search Console, if we have noticed any hack, you should get some information there.
    Review our additional resources on typical symptoms of hacked sites, and our case studies on hacked sites.
  2. Audit third-party scripts/elements on your site
    If your site is not hacked, then we recommend you take the time to investigate if third-party scripts/elements are causing the redirects. You can follow these steps:
    A. Remove one by one the third-party scripts/elements you do not control from the redirecting page(s).
    B. Check your site on a mobile device or through emulation between each script/element removal, and see when the redirect stops.
    C. If you think a particular script/element is responsible for the sneaky redirect, consider removing it from your site, and debugging the issue with the script/element provider.

Last Thoughts on Sneaky Mobile Redirects

It's a violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines to redirect a user to a page with the intent of displaying content other than what was made available to the search engine crawler (more information on sneaky redirects). To ensure quality search results for our users, the Google Search Quality team can take action on such sites, including removal of URLs from our index.  When we take manual action, we send a message to the site owner via Search Console. Therefore, make sure you’ve set up a Search Console account.

Be sure to choose advertisers who are transparent on how they handle user traffic, to avoid unknowingly redirecting your own users. If you are interested in trust-building in the online advertising space, you may check out industry-wide best practices when participating in ad networks. For example, the Trustworthy Accountability Group’s (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Inventory Quality Guidelines are a good place to start. There are many ways to monetize your content with mobile solutions that provide a high quality user experience, be sure to use them.

If you have questions or comments about mobile-only redirects, join us in our Google Webmaster Support forum.


An update on how we tackle hacked spam

Recently we have started rolling out a series of algorithmic changes that aim to tackle hacked spam in our search results. A huge amount of legitimate sites are hacked by spammers and used to engage in abusive behavior, such as malware download, promotion of traffic to low quality sites, porn, and marketing of counterfeit goods or illegal pharmaceutical drugs, etc.

Website owners that don’t implement standard best practices for security can leave their websites vulnerable to being easily hacked. This can include government sites, universities, small business, company websites, restaurants, hobby organizations, conferences, etc. Spammers and cyber-criminals purposely seek out those sites and inject pages with malicious content in an attempt to gain rank and traffic in search engines.

We are aggressively targeting hacked spam in order to protect users and webmasters.

The algorithmic changes will eventually impact roughly 5% of queries, depending on the language. As we roll out the new algorithms, users might notice that for certain queries, only the most relevant results are shown, reducing the number of results shown:

This is due to the large amount of hacked spam being removed, and should improve in the near future. We are continuing tuning our systems to weed out the bad content while retaining the organic, legitimate results. If you have any questions about these changes, or want to give us feedback on these algorithms, feel free to drop by our Webmaster Help Forums.

Helping hacked sites with reconsideration requests

Thus far in 2015 we have seen a 180% increase in the number of sites getting hacked and a 300% increase in hacked site reconsideration requests. While we are working hard to help webmasters prevent hacks in the first place through efforts such as blog posts and #NoHacked campaigns, we recognize that our reconsideration process is an important part of making recovering from a hack faster and easier. Here's what we've been focussing on:

1) Improved communication
2) Better tools
3) Continuous feedback loop

1. Improving communications with webmasters of hacked sites

Last year we launched the "Note from your reviewer" feature in our reconsideration process. This feature enables us to give specific examples and advice tailored to each case in response to a reconsideration request. Thus far in 2015 we have sent a customized note to over 70% of webmasters whose hacked reconsideration request was rejected, with specific guidance on where and how to find the remaining hacked content. The results have been encouraging, as we've seen a 29% decrease in the average amount of time from when a site receives a hacked manual action to the time when the webmaster cleans up and the manual action is removed.


Example "note from your reviewer" with detailed guidance and a custom example of hacked text and a hacked page

We have also completed our second #NoHacked campaign, with more detailed help on preventing and recovering from hacks. In the campaign, we focused on ways to improve the security on your site as well as ways to fix your site if it was compromised. You can catch up by reading the first post.

2. Better tools including auto-removal of some hacked manual actions

Last year we launched the "Fetch and Render" feature to the Fetch as Google tool, which allows you to see the website exactly as Googlebot sees it. This functionality is useful in recovering from a hack, since many hackers inject cloaked content that's not visible to the normal user but obvious to search engine crawlers like Googlebot.

This year we also launched the Hacked Sites Troubleshooter in 23 languages which guides webmasters through some basic steps to recover from a hack. Let us know if you have found the troubleshooter useful as we're continuing to expand its features and impact.

Finally, we're beta testing the automated removal of some hacked manual actions. In Search Console if Google sees a "Hacked site" manual action under "Partial matches", and our systems detect that the hacked content is no longer present, in some cases we will automatically remove that manual action. We still recommend that you submit a reconsideration request if you see any manual actions, but don't be surprised if a "Hacked site" manual action disappears and saves you the trouble!


Example of a Hacked site manual action on a Partial match: if our systems detect that the hacked content is no longer present, in some cases we will automatically remove the manual action

3. Soliciting your feedback and taking action

Our improved communication and tools have come directly from feedback we've collected from webmasters of sites that have been hacked. For example, earlier this year we hosted webmasters who have been through the hacked reconsideration process in both Mountain View, USA and Dublin, Ireland for brainstorming sessions. We also randomly sampled webmasters that had been through a hacked reconsideration. We found that while only 15% of webmasters were dissatisfied with the process, the main challenges those webmasters faced were in clearer notification of their site being hacked and clearer guidance on how to resolve the hack. This feedback contributed directly our more detailed blog post on hacked recovery, and to much of the content in our latest #NoHacked campaign.

(for hi-res version) https://goo.gl/photos/TkvkwYt23MpVHBwz6  



Googlers in Dublin brainstorming ways to improve the hacked reconsideration process after meeting with local webmasters


We will continue to support webmasters of hacked sites through the methods detailed above, in addition to the Webmasters help for hacked sites portal and the security, malware & hacked sites section of our forum. And we'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below on how Google can better support webmasters recovering from a hacked website!