Google Upgrades Chrome’s Unsafe Site Detection

Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan
IT Writer
Last updated: May 14, 2024
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Google is upgrading Chrome’s Safe Browsing function to provide real-time detection of unsafe websites by directly comparing URLs to a server-side list, guaranteeing that your browsing data is secure.

The previous method included Chrome downloading a list of potentially dangerous websites, including viruses, phishing schemes, and sites with unwanted software, once or twice every hour. The transition to a real-time scanning procedure means that URLs visited are compared to an always-up-to-date list on Google’s servers, allowing for faster detection of malicious websites. This update is especially useful because the lifecycle of a malicious website is often less than 10 minutes.

Google estimates that this update will detect up to 25% more phishing attempts than the prior strategy. The change also addresses the growing size of local lists, which has become an issue, particularly for devices with limited resources or users with sluggish internet connections.

This improved identification approach is already available to users on PC and iOS, with plans to expand the feature to Android devices later this month.

Private Browsing Improved with Safe Browsing Mode

Those who have previously used Google’s Safe Browsing Enhanced Mode may recognize the term. This unique mode compares the website you are visiting to an up-to-date internet list. It doesn’t stop there, it employs artificial intelligence to detect unknown dangers, delves deeply into file inspections, and protects against malicious Chrome extensions. Even though opting in is optional, Google has been gradually encouraging users to activate it. The baseline protection option lacks these AI features.

To ensure that your web activity remains private, Google has developed a mechanism for Safe Browsing to work quickly without compromising your data. Here’s a simple explanation of how it works:

  1. When you visit a website, Chrome checks its cache to see if the URL is safe.
  2. If the URL isn’t in its cache and could be dangerous, Chrome converts it to a 32-byte hash format using certain criteria.
  3. Next, Chrome reduces these 32-byte hashes to 4-byte hash prefixes.
  4. The hash prefixes are then encrypted and transferred to a privacy server.
  5. This server removes any bits that could identify you and provides the encrypted hash data to Google’s Safe Browsing service via a secure channel that blends in with many other Chrome users.
  6. Google’s Safe Browsing service then decrypts the hash prefixes and compares them to its most recent list of dangerous URLs. If there is a match, it returns the entire hashes of the unsafe URLs to Chrome.
  7. Chrome then compares these entire hashes to the hash of the page you want to view.
  8. If it discovers a matched, it displays a warning to inform you that the site may be unsafe.
Google's Safe Browsing Enhanced Mode
When you see Safe Browsing’s warning, proceed with caution.

A notable feature of this architecture is the privacy server, a partnership with Fastly that serves as an Oblivious HTTP privacy server. This intermediary layer ensures that no personal information is leaked during the process, hence improving web browsing security.

Fastly’s innovation here is a privacy-focused solution that anonymizes user data between Chrome and online applications while maintaining data interaction. Google notes that Fastly runs these servers independently, providing an additional layer of anonymity.

As a result, Google Safe Browsing does not see your IP address, and Fastly remains unaware of the actual URLs, which are protected by encryption keys that Fastly does not have access to. This elaborate configuration ensures that your online experience is both secure and confidential.

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Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan
Maryan Duritan, a seasoned U.S.-based copywriter and SEO specialist, excels in making complex ideas accessible. She crafts compelling website content, blogs, articles, ebooks, press releases, and newsletters, tailoring tone and voice to match client goals and audience needs. Her creative precision transforms ideas into impactful content.

Why Trust Us

Our editorial policy emphasizes accuracy, relevance, and impartiality, with content crafted by experts and rigorously reviewed by seasoned editors for top-notch reporting and publishing standards.

Disclosure
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