Google's "human error" blacklists 'net

Google's "human error" blacklists 'net

The alerts - programmed to show for sites on a blacklist of dangerous web locations - appeared for every search result following a glitch at Google.

Google has blamed “human error” for a glitch which saw the entire Internet classified as malware this weekend.

As reported over on CNet, the search engine giant – which works with site classification organisation to alert users to potentially dangerous search results – started reporting the entire Internet as an infected site at around 1500 GMT on Saturday.

For about half an hour, the largest search engine on the planet warned users that “this site may harm your computer” for the entire Internet. While the problem was rapidly resolved, there was a certain amount of argument as to who exactly was to blame for the outage.

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, initially attempted to pin the blame on bad data provided by non-profit organisation This was rapidly denied by's Maxim Weinstein, who pointed out that “Google generates its own list of badware URLs, and no data that we generate is supposed to affect the warnings in Google's search listings.

Since the event – and's denial of involvement – Google has pointed the finger at “human error” on its own end: it appears that whoever was responsible for the creation of the list of dangerous sites made a rather important typo, and entered “/” somewhere in the blacklist – resulting in the entire Internet being misclassified.

Although the glitch has now been resolved – and without the need to remove the blacklisting altogether, meaning that bad sites are still correctly listed as bad – there has been a certain amount of heartache for all involved, from end-users confused by the warnings received to webmasters who feel their good names have been tarnished. was also taken offline briefly by excess traffic generated by the mistake.

Did anyone notice the glitch on Saturday and wonder just what new attack the Internet was facing now, or was it just a minor hiccough that could well have gone unnoticed? Share your thoughts over in the forums.


Discuss in the forums Reply
johnmustrule 2nd February 2009, 09:19 Quote
First- and no I didn't even notice it, 30min is too small of a time frame. Anyone know how many hits they got during the down time?
Mentai 2nd February 2009, 09:33 Quote
Originally Posted by johnmustrule
First- and no I didn't even notice it, 30min is too small of a time frame. Anyone know how many hits they got during the down time?

Please don't bother stating you're first to post in a news thread... Ever- and no I didn't notice either. I don't use services such as that unless I'm browsing outside my circle of webpages, which is quite rare. In my experience, the only time I've come across malicious pages is when I'm searching for something illegal, eg cracks, which makes me feel like I've got my just desserts :P
iwod 2nd February 2009, 10:00 Quote
30min was PR speaking.... it was more then a few hours......
LeMaltor 2nd February 2009, 10:07 Quote
4th! Anyway I got hit by this, can't remember what I was searching for but it confused the hell out of me until I gave up and looked at porn.
friskies 2nd February 2009, 10:54 Quote
Lol my friend couldn`t figure out why google kept telling him that HP`s site were malicious, now we know why
M4RTIN 2nd February 2009, 11:04 Quote
Originally Posted by johnmustrule

why, just why?!?!

bizarely when i tried to use it during that time it seemed to work fine :?
sbarts 2nd February 2009, 11:47 Quote
I experienced this. I guessed it was a Google blunder and not the end of the world as we know it
V3ctor 2nd February 2009, 12:15 Quote
LOL... I had friends that thought that it was the end of the world... like a global war or something... I believe that new cults have been created after this Google fail... lol...
Shuriken 2nd February 2009, 12:30 Quote
Last (sorry, couldn't resist it)- I think this whole thing is actually a credit to google, as the only reason there is so much discussion surrounding this, is that in over ten years, google has never had a major **** up or significant downtime (at least, not that I know of)

How many other sites have that kind of track record?
Javerh 2nd February 2009, 15:32 Quote
Not to mention Google is pretty much the only internet service everybody uses.
Furymouse 2nd February 2009, 16:39 Quote
Ok who googled google?!?! I lay full blame on you :D
Vigfus 2nd February 2009, 17:59 Quote
I never got that error-message, but i noticed that web-search was down while every other search worked normally.
I did think it was the end of the wourld though. ;)
kosch 3rd February 2009, 13:09 Quote
I had serveral phone calls from confused family members over the weekend stating that there computers had a virus infection, upon asking them to actually read the message google was returning it turns out this glitch was the problem!
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