Badware is called badware for a reason. Here, we go through different types of badware and explain how to check your site is free from malicious threats.
What is badware?
Badware is software that is installed on a user’s computer without their knowledge or consent. It disregards a user’s choice about how their computer or network is used and can steal sensitive or financial information, send spam to contacts or download harmful files and viruses to your computer.
To have dangerous software on your site you usually have to have intentionally put it there. However, if you’re a newer webmaster you may unknowingly be doing so if you’re hacked or have software put on your servers without your knowledge. Though a number of badware sites are created with malicious intent, very often personal sites or those of legitimate businesses are infected unbeknownst to their owners.
Examples of badware
- Changing the location of content on a page. For example, if a user thinks they’re clicking on a particular link but the click is instead registered by a different part of the page
- Swapping existing ads on a site with different ads or promoting/installing software that does so
- Including additional, unwanted files in a download requested by a user
- Installing any form of malware, spyware, trojans, ads or viruses on a user’s computer
- Changing a user’s browser homepage or search settings without the user’s informed consent
How does Google identify badware?
Distributing content or software on your site that acts in any other way than what the user is expecting is a breach of the Google Webmaster guidelines. Anything that manipulates content on a page in an unanticipated manner, downloads files to a user’s computer without their consent or does not comply with Google’s Unwanted Software Policy falls into this category.
If Google identifies a site that uses badware or any type of malicious software, it will show the result but also state beneath that “This site may harm your computer” before you leave the search engine to visit a web page. If you go on to click the result anyway, Google displays another warning page to advise you against visiting the site.
What do I do if I have badware on my site?
If Google has detected badware on your site they will notify you via the Google Search Console dashboard or send notification emails to your site.
If you do find that your site has a warning screen, it’s important to try and identify the root of the problem so that you can fix it. If you’re struggling to do so Stopbadware.org have a problem solving page to advise you. Google partners with StopBadware to determine which sites receive a warning screen, so it’s best to follow their more specific guidelines if you have any doubt. Once you’ve resolved the issue, you should request a malware review from Google. This is the quickest way to get rid of Google’s warning page, typically taking less than a day to be reviewed.
If Google is specifically identifying your site as potentially harmful, this will inevitably hurt users’ confidence in your site. As it’s so simple to resolve this issue, it’s worth you doing so as soon as you can. Ultimately, your main concern should be making a safe and valuable site for your users.