Imagine, it is a regular day, you are browsing through random websites and suddenly you tap on a button and a bright red screen pops up warning you about the dangers that come with being online. It has a huge cross on the top left and reads in bold white letters, The site ahead contains harmful programs. This may cause you to panic and worry about your privacy & safety; which may or may not be grounded in reality.
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The error/warning is caused because of Safe Browsing, a tool used by Google to protect its users from harmful content and this article is about how to disable, bypass or remove this feature, which we recommend only when you are sure and trust the website, otherwise have some faith in Google.
Why are you being warned?
The “The Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” alerts are mainly to warn you about dangerous or deceptive websites and are turned on by default in your web browser.
A few reasons why Google doesn’t recommend you visit a particular website include:
- The site may contain Malware: The site may trick you into installing bad, harmful and unwanted software on your computer commonly referred to as “malware”. These software are designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to your system.
- Suspicious Site: These sites may seem unsafe and suspicious of the browser.
- Deceptive Site: A “phishing site” is a fake website that makes a fraudulent attempt at gathering private and sensitive information like username, email ids, credit card details, passwords, etc by tricking the user and is therefore classified as a cybercrime.
- The website may not be secure: A website is considered not secure when one of the pages is trying to load scripts from an unauthenticated source.
- Visiting the wrong Website: A pop up may arrive saying, “Did you mean ___ website” or “Is this the right website” indicating that you might be confused about the site name and are visiting the fraudulent one.
- History of the Website: The website may have a history of unsafe behavior and hence you are warned to be careful.
- Google Safe Browsing: Google maintains a list of websites that might be harmful or risky and the site you are trying to visit is listed there. It analyzes the site and warns you about it.
- Using Public Network: Your network administrator might have set up precautionary measures against harmful and risky websites.
How to continue visiting the site?
If you think there are no grounds for the warning and you trust the site, there are ways to bypass the warning and visit the site anyway.
Well, there are two ways to be precise; one is specific to the particular website while the other is a more permanent way.
Method 1: Bypassing the Warning and Accessing the Site Directly
A good example of using this feature is while using peer to peer file sharing websites, like a torrent, where users may link or post malicious content but the site hosting this transaction is not bad or harmful on its own. But one should be aware of the dangers and be smart about avoiding them.
The process is straightforward and simple.
1. When you get the bright red warning screen look for a ‘Details’ option in the bottom and tap on it.
2. Opening this gives more details about the problem. Click on ‘Visit this site’ to proceed, now you can go back to uninterrupted browsing.
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Method 2: Disabling the security block feature in Chrome
Using this method disables pop up warnings for all websites visited by the user and not just particular ones. This option is reserved for advanced users who are aware and willing to take the risk involved in turning off this protection feature.
Remember, that one must only visit websites they know for sure are safe. Never click on suspicious ads or follow third party links unless you have a security system in place; like a commonly used anti-virus software.
Also, note that when Safe Browsing is turned off you automatically stop being warned about your passwords being exposed during a data breach.
To turn off this feature anyway follow the below instructions.
1: Open Google Chrome on your system. Locate the ‘Menu’ icon located in the top right corner and click on it.
2: In the drop-down menu, select ‘Settings’ to proceed.
3: Scroll down to the ‘Privacy and Security’ section in the Settings menu and click on the little downward arrow located next to ‘More’.
4: Tap on the toggle switch located next to the ‘Safe Browsing’ option to switch it off.
5: Restart the browser once and Google will no longer try to warn and protect you.
clear up browser cache to bypass the warning message to visit certain websites.
Why would your website be flagged?
Imagine spending weeks or months developing a stunning website just to be disappointed by the amount of traffic it is getting. You put more resources into making the site better and more attractive but then you realize that they are being greeted with a bright red scary warning “The site ahead contains harmful programs” before visiting your site. In such a scenario, the website can lose upwards of 95% of its traffic, hence, it is essential to keep monitoring its status.
Here are a few possible reasons for being flagged:
- Being labeled as Spam Content: It might be considered as being ‘worthless’ or harmful by Google.
- Domain Spoofing: A hacker might try to impersonate a company or its employees. A common form is sending emails with a fake but similar domain name which may appear as legitimate to an average user.
- Using Shared Hosting Platforms: Here, a few different websites are hosted together on the same server. Each user is allocated certain resources like storage space. If one of the sites in the shared server gets flagged for malpractices/fraudulent then your website could get blocked too.
- The site could be infected by hackers: Hackers have infected the site with Malware, Spyware, or a Virus.
The process of checking the site’s status is simple, just follow the given instructions.
Method 1: Using Google’s Transparency Report
Google Transparency Report and enter your site URL in the search bar. Press the enter key to start scanning.
Once the scan is complete, Google will report the site’s status.
If it reads ‘No Unsafe Content Found’, you are in the clear otherwise it will list out any and all malicious content found on your website along with its location. It could be in the form of unauthorized redirects, hidden iframe, external scripts, or any other source that could be affecting your website.
Norton Safe Web Scanner and File Viewer, a Free Website Malware Scanner – Aw Snap that you could use to check your site’s status.
Here, simply enter your site’s domain name in the search bar and hit enter.
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Method 2: Searching your website’s domain name
Simply open a new tab in Chrome and type ‘site:’ in the Google search bar then add your website’s domain name without space, for example, ‘site:troubleshooter.xyz’ then hit search.
All the webpages will be listed and you can easily identify any infected pages as a warning text will appear before them. This method is useful for finding particular infected pages or new pages added by a hacker.
What to do when your own website is flagged as being harmful?
Once you have found the root cause for why the browser displayed a warning when visiting your website, clear it up by removing any suspicious sites it must be linking to. After doing that, you will have let Google know so the search engine can unflag your site and direct the traffic to your webpage.
Google Webmaster Tool Account and go to your Search Console and proceed to verify your site ownership.
Step 2: Once verified, find and click on ‘Security Issues’ options in the navigation bar.
Go through all the security issues listed and once you are sure that those problems have been solved, then go ahead and tick the checkbox next to ‘I have fixed these issues’ and click on the ‘Request A Review’ button.
The review process may take anything from a few hours to a few days and once completed, visitors will no longer be greeted with a bright red warning The site ahead contains harmful programs alert before visiting your website.