Monday, February 02, 2009

Human Error Caused Google Search Bug

On Saturday, for almost an hour, Google search results came with a warning message saying "This site may harm your computer." Even Google's own services were labeled as risky sites - come to think of it, Google had actually blacklisted the entire Internet!

Some initial reports had also mentioned the possibility of a Google hack when entering the address "" did not give the usual Google page but some strange webpage that said "SoGoSearch". As expected, Google did come up with an official explanation. This too raked up a minor controversy, and was then modified.

According to Google, the glitch was the result of a "human" error. Google periodically updates its list of potentially harmful sites using data compiled from a non-profit organization called The list, according to Google, is updated both manually and automatically. It was during one of these updates that the popular search engine labeled all sites as being potentially unsafe. This happened when, accidentally, the URL value of "/" was checked and classified as being potentially unsafe. However, the "/" value actually extends to all URLs, resulting in all the websites being blacklisted. The situation continued for almost an hour till the problem was sorted out.

The Google blog post also apologized to everyone affected by the glitch and also to those site owners whose safe sites were labeled as harmful. This is apart from the promise to have more "robust" checks in place to prevent similar issues in the future.