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Google Blacklists Sites Using Logins Over HTTP: Report

In what appears to be yet another effort to encourage site owners to adopt HTTPS, Google is marking newly registered sites that serve login pages or password input fields over HTTP as unsafe, Sucuri and Unmask Parasites have discovered.

In what appears to be yet another effort to encourage site owners to adopt HTTPS, Google is marking newly registered sites that serve login pages or password input fields over HTTP as unsafe, Sucuri and Unmask Parasites have discovered.

Google marks websites as containing Deceptive Content when it detects code meant to trick users into revealing sensitive information. Recently, however, the company apparently started blacklisting sites and adding the Deceptive Content warning to them even if they were clean and loaded no external resource.

The reason, Sucuri notes, was that these websites only used the HTTP protocol, even if they contained login pages or password input fields. As soon as a SSL/TLS certificate was installed, Google would remove the warning after reviewing the site once again, the security firm says.

Google has been long pushing for the adoption of HTTPS, and even started crawling pages that use the protocol in favor of their HTTP equivalents a couple of years ago. Others followed suit, including WordPress, but it didn’t take long for cybercriminals to adopt HTTPS as well, and the number of phishing sites that use encryption has been growing lately. 

The use of encryption is meant to keep a website visitors’ data safe from prying eyes, as the connection between the users’ browser and the server is secure. Google even marks sites that don’t have HTTPS enabled as Not secure in Chrome, and also uses a red triangle warning for that.

Now, the company also appears to be blacklisting sites that serve login fields over unencrypted connections, which could result in up to 95% traffic reduction in some cases. “By blocking sites that should be using HTTP, Google can protect its users and send a clear message to the webmaster,” Sucuri says.

The non-HTTPS sites that Google has been slapping the Deceptive Content warning onto are all recently registered domains, meaning that they didn’t have time to build a reputation and authority with Google. Despite the warning, they contained no malware, and were blacklisted until SSL was enabled on them, the security company explains.

A website’s age is one of the factors influencing Google’s rating of that site, because phishers often use newly-registered domains in their attacks, before they are blacklisted. Thus, new sites need to build a reputation, while domains that have been registered years ago enjoy a certain level of authority.

“While Google has not confirmed that SSL is a factor in reviewing blacklist warnings, it makes sense. Google can ultimately keep their user’s browsing experience as safe as possible, and educate webmasters effectively by blocking sites that don’t protect the transmission of passwords and credit card numbers,” Sucuri notes.

We emailed Google for a comment on this matter and we’ll update the article as soon as we receive a reply.

Related: U.S. Warns of Security Issues With HTTPS Inspection Products

Related: US-CERT’s Warning on SSL Interception vs. Security is a False Dichotomy

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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