Google recently announced that it is developing an algorithm that will warn users about social engineering sites and illegitimate download buttons. This comes in the wake of increased number of fake download buttons and social engineering sites and is part of Google’s undertaking to ensure safe browsing. Previously, Google warned users about malware detection or expiry of a site certificate.
The proposed move is very important as the web has undergone a quick metamorphosis into something completely different from what it was some twenty years ago. Around 1997, during the era of Netscape Navigator and AOL, things were completely different and such fake download buttons were not as rampant as is the case today.
Some of the websites being targeted by Google include those that pop up and tell the customer that their system is outdated and they need to install some plug in in order to watch a video. In addition those that scatter numerous “download” buttons when in fact only one of them is legitimate are also part of Google’s target.
Concerning advertising content, Google intends to target specifically two types of ads, firstly, those that simulate trusted entities for example devices, browsers or even a website. Secondly, those that truck a person into doing things that they would only do for trusted entities for example sharing of passwords.
Unlike some twenty or so years ago when the web was new and I would find pride in being able to distinguish real from fake links, today, everybody’s interest is in having internet that is working as opposed to that which tries to trick them to click on some application installers having absolutely no connection with the software one is looking for.
Whereas it is not known how much money is generated by these fake download and social engineering links, one thing is sure; that they cause disappointment to internet users. It should be remembered that SourceForge was able to successfully see its place in community of OSS which had been largely usurped by such organisations as Github as a result of user discontent inter alia with the bundling and advertising practices associated with the site. The web should move away from social engineering if it has to become better and safer for users.