Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2015

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editor’s note:

Google issues false warning about the security of Sun’s website

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The Sun's site was safe to visit Sunday, May 15, 2012, despite a warning from Google saying otherwise. Subsequent information from Google confirmed the site's security.

Overnight and into this morning, Google scared Sun readers from visiting stories displayed on our homepage, displaying a screen that warned that the page had been blocked for security reasons. It allowed readers to ignore the warning, but suggested that would come at the risk of great peril. Another option for readers was to click on the button “Get me out of here!”

That was rather unsettling. With that exclamation point, who dared proceed?

But yet, Google’s own supporting information (available to readers who clicked on the button “Why was this page blocked?”) reported that in 337 random pages it tested over the past 90 days, it found no evidence of malicious software. None. Moreover, Google said that our website was not serving as an intermediary for any viruses. In other words, we were clean.

Despite this, Google was scaring our readers away. It seemed that the only piece of bad software on our site today was Google’s frightening messages. This is Mother’s Day, not April Fool’s Day.

Please rest assured that the security we employ to keep our website clean of viruses and other malicious software is state-of-the-art, and for good reason. We are a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization and our website has been honored in four of the past five years as the best in the country. We don’t want anyone messing with us.

We are very concerned that Google could scare readers away from our stories, and we are investigating how this occurred. If you were among our early-morning readers, we apologize for the inconvenience and thanks for coming back.

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  1. I was very surprised thinking maybe the site had gotten hacked. I'm glad it was fixed, and The Sun issued an explanation, otherwise I may have chosen not to continue reading the online version. So, Thank you for updating us readers, at least this one anyways...

  2. Actually, this weekend there WAS a problem with the Sun website.

    One of your advertisers had slipped in a fake virus scan advert for "Windows 2012 Security Scan". The advertisement contained a script file which popped up an alert that "Your computer may be infected, scan now?" If you clicked OK, then it downloaded a setup.exe to you, which presumably was a trojan horse ready to load up your computer with Spyware.

    Google was actually doing your readers a favor. You may want to have your web admins double check your adserver script filters.

  3. As always, read the news at your own risk. Depending upon one's political persuasion they might learn something or have a coronary attack. Post a comment and you open yourself up to almost anything. Thanks Google, for confirming the obvious.

  4. @ispud - just curious, where did you come by your information?

  5. oops.. . bad typo there. sorry .. I left out the "i" in the user's name. Let me try again !

    @ipsuid (David Kern) - just curious, where did you come by your information?

  6. Yeah, I got that windows 2012 security scan crap too..Clicking yes for the scan was the only available option on the dialogue box, as I recall, so I simply used my address bar to go to another website...Didn't give it much thought till now..

  7. I got on last night to read the opinion page and the warning flashed, so I exited out. Glad everything is fine. Thanks for the explanation.

  8. @Test_Guy - it happened to me yesterday afternoon (according to my history at 1:49pm). Once I saw it I was surprised enough to bring up the developer console in Chrome and take a look at the iframe element holding the advertisement. I had seen it in both the top banner and in the column B adDiv1 loaded from /adpage. It was part of the rotation though, so had to reload a few times to get it to come back.

    I didn't copy down the javascript (should have) - but it essentially created a random message, gave an alert dialog and also tied into the page unload event to warn against leaving the page. All in an effort to download the setup.exe file I mentioned.

    I looked at reporting the problem, but couldn't find a link to report a problem with the site.

  9. Mr. Kern,

    You must have missed this link

  10. @vegaslee - Thanks, I sure did. I clicked through to the staff page and skipped right over the links at the top of that page. Good to know for next time!

  11. Dear readers,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed responses. Frequently you are our eyes in finding problems on our site before we do. We appreciate your letting us know.

    In this particular case, it's indeed possible a network ad provider -- as opposed to one of our own ads -- posed a problem that we were unaware of. And that is part of what we are looking into.

    You can contact us at Believe me, we read your comments; they go directly to my email.



  12. I saw the problem when it first occurred and after a quick read on Google clicked the ignore button.

    I also get warnings from McAfee once in a while about some content being blocked. I presume these are ads from various services that go to other sites that have problems. I would be surprised at all if an ad being blocked was something like that described above.

  13. @ ipsuid (David Kern) - thanks for the detailed report... I didn't seem to have any problems with the Sun's site (using Google Chrome 18.0.1025.168 m), but I have seen that Trojan trick before.

  14. It's the ad networks the Sun allows to publish ads on the site. They put malicious tracking code on your computer...all of these online newspaper sites do it. I'm glad that Google & Firefox is doing something about it. The Sun should be more careful about who they use for ad networks.

  15. The "scan your computer" for problems is the biggest scam going on out there, it preys on the fear of the computer owner. Simply click the close x at the top right hand of the pop up. I have a couple of elderly friends every time I see them I end up deleting 3 or 4 of these programs they seem to download, even though they always claim they have no idea where they come from!~ be careful and watchful what you agree to d/l

  16. For nearly a year, my VIPRE antivirus was warning me of some of the ads on the online system, and I simply ignored them, knowing that if I start clicking on stuff, it releases malware. Both Google and Firefox seem to have some platform issues time to time, of not being real stable. I use IE as my browser for my browsing. But the latest pop-up ads are annoying, to say the least.

    The Las Vegas Sun is one of the best sources for news, and I firmly believe in their integrity and respect towards their readers.

    Blessings and Peace,