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Google adds download defense to Chrome, patches 15 bugs

Gregg Keizer, Computerworld | June 8, 2011
Google on Tuesday updated Chrome to version 12, adding a new tool that warns users when they've downloaded files from dangerous Web sites.

Google on Tuesday updated Chrome to version 12, adding a new tool that warns users when they've downloaded files from dangerous Web sites.

The company also patched 15 bugs in the browser and paid out nearly $10,000 in bounties to outside researchers who reported vulnerabilities to its security team.

Chrome warning
Chrome displays this warning if a downloaded file is served from a known malware distribution site.

New to Chrome 12 is a feature that flags dodgy files pulled from the Web. Chrome now shows an alert when users download some file types from sites that are on the Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) blacklist, which Google maintains.

The messages reads: "This file is malicious. Are you sure you want to continue?"

If they wish, users can ignore the warning and save the file to their system's hard drive.

"This warning will be displayed for any download URL that matches the latest list of malicious websites published by the Safe Browsing API," said Google last April when it debuted the feature in an earlier edition of Chrome.

Safe Browsing already identifies suspicious or unsafe sites, then adds them to a blacklist. Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari all tap into Safe Browsing to warn users of risky sites before they actually visit them.

But by expanding its use of Safe Browsing to signal users of not just malicious sites, but also the downloads that come from them, Google is following in Microsoft's footsteps.

Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), which launched in mid-March, uses something Microsoft calls "SmartScreen Application Reputation" to rank the probability that a download is legitimate software. Files that don't appear legit trigger a warning if users try to run or save them after downloading.

The new tools within IE9 and Chrome have been applauded by security researchers because hackers don't always rely on exploits to plant malware on machines. They are often able to trick uses into doing their work for them.

Fake antivirus software, called "scareware," is a good example. Malicious sites make visitors believe their PCs are infected, and then pitch them worthless security software that can supposedly clean their computer.

Some Mac users got a first hand look at scareware last month when an experienced gang that had worked the Windows side of the street kicked off an aggressive campaign to also sell fake Mac antivirus software.

Other improvements in Chrome 12 include additional support for hardware-accelerated 3-D graphics in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac's Snow Leopard.


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