If you've ever explored the slightly less savory side of the Internet — be it torrents, pornography or alarmist conspiracy-theory blogs — then you're well aware that malicious download buttons masquerading as the real thing are about as a common as Nigerian bank scams. Google, however, has had enough of four fake download links for every real one, and has expanded its Safe Browsing program in the Chrome browser to block them.
Lucas Ballard from the Google's Safe Browsing Team shared the information in Google's Online Security Blog. The Safe Browsing program in Chrome has been around since November, and initially targeted phishing and malware sites. Now, the company is tackling a different kind of social engineering: phony ads that look like the real thing (to an untrained eye, at least).
Google highlighted three different kinds of deceptive ads that will be blocked under its new program. The first is an error message claiming that a program like Flash requires an update before you view or download content. The second insists that your software is missing a vital codec, or that you don't have the necessary type of media player. (These are extremely common on third-tier video-streaming sites.) Perhaps the most pernicious ad, though, is the one that simply says "Download" or "Play," and looks almost indistinguishable from the genuine article.
Here's the downside: While Google Safe Browsing will indeed protect you from deceptive ads, it approaches the problem with a shotgun rather than a scalpel. Instead of blocking the fake ads, it will block the entire site with a "Deceptive site ahead warning," which creates a big red screen and an option to go "back to safety" of whatever page you were on before.
Google's solution isn't perfect, but it's at least a start, particularly for those who are less tech-savvy. (Those who live on the edge can still proceed to the sites at their own risk.) Chrome will receive this update automatically, so all you have to do to get it is to use Chrome on a regular basis. If you want to force the update, just go to the Chrome settings menu and click About.