The day Google broke the Web

The day Google broke the Web

There was some sort of mass panic last night when Google was spewing a warning “this site may harm your computer” on all their search results. People search on Google were shocked and confused as if the search engine itself was hacked.

Connie took a screenshot from her browser of what turned out to be human error from some engineers over at Google:

google search


The incident happened sometime between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. as Google explains:

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message “This site may harm your computer” if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. 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., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

A single character (the “/”) did all that trouble. One can only imagine if it were a single word/command or a line of code?

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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20 Responses

  1. jireh says:

    nothing to panic… :) hehe..

  2. It might only their scape goat.. We will see what will happen in future :)

  3. Patrick says:

    I plurked about this last night. I thought it was my computer or ISP doing this so I tried my other computer and it gave the same anti-malware warnings. Everything was back to normal in less than an hour. I was researching on how to dualboot Ubuntu and Windows 7 when this happened. Experiencing this made me realize how necessary Google is to my tech life.

  4. Connie says:

    Duh, I was calling you when it happened because I thought my server got attacked again — you were sleeping!!!

  5. whew….i was wondering what the hell is wrong..thanks for letting me know. Can’t live without Google!

  6. herbert says:

    I was browsing a non-business related website in our company’s Citrix. I got nervous when I saw the message that’s why I stopped browsing. We’ve had employees who got fired for visiting unrelated sites.

  7. itpinoy says:

    what hit me most about yesterday’s fluke was there was a letdown perhaps in the dev process. before checking in codes more so putting it into productions, as an IT PINOY it’s a big NO NO not to atleast unit test your update!

    also did you know there’s a side story to this? google pointed @ it’s partner first to have caused this .. read more @ my blog

  8. Jan Alvin says:

    Some sources say that i was a crash, and the source was immediately found.

  9. Jan Alvin says:

    I mean “it” was a crash. sorry typo. :)

  10. PinoyDIgg says:

    experienced this, but when i noticed that all things that I am googling resulted to this ‘site harmful to computer’ thing, I went directly to the websites ’cause I know it is a fraud.. hahaha

  11. xbiboy says:

    thanks for the info actually I was really annoyed by that time I really thought that my antivirus is blocking all my sites, because all of the website that I am typing on are blocked, but when I type it directly it was just fine. anyways that slash “/” is powerful haha!(Lol)..

  12. Adrian says:

    ok na naman pala eh! :)

  13. hehehe, I was disconnected from the net last night. Good thing though, it might have made me panic :)

  14. CarloBlogg says:

    a single (/) can make a big difference, I always experience that when I edit HTML codes in my blog- codes will not work if they are not complete up to the single digit/letter,hehe :D

  15. Jam says:

    I personally experienced it. I sort of panicked also because when I searched for my sites, that warning appeared. Kinda scary if Google were to tag my sites as harmful.

  16. i also noticed that yesterday

  17. I was browsing at that time and couldn’t open certain sites I usually go to. That “malware” message keeps on coming out.

    I thought there was just something wrong with my settings. =)

    Who would expect a human error from google?

  18. Humans do make mistakes sometimes.

  19. I saw this too. I use a Mac, so I didn’t see any way it could be a virus. Weather, weather lang.

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