Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

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Google Over Reaction?

I'm working on a piece on web hosting at the moment.

To wrap up the copy I need some examples of hosting providers in different spaces. I needed to find a host who could be used to help build community sites, so I did what we usually do in the cases: I fired up a Google search for the innocuous set of terms "phpbb host uk", found nothing I wanted to use on the site on the first page, clicked "next", and got an HTTP 403 Forbidden message from Google:

We're sorry...

... but we can't process your request right now. A computer virus or spyware application is sending us automated requests, and it appears that your computer or network has been infected.

We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your computer is free of viruses and other spurious software.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google.

This came as a bit of a surprise, as I run a relatively secure network - not only do the desktop PCs and notebooks all run virus scanners, spyware scanners and personal firewalls, but I've got an extra layer of security in the shape of a hardened router.

I tried a few different search terms, but it appeared that any search that began with the phrase "phpbb" would return this error message, while other searches carried on happily. Put the term in second or third, and you'd be fine. Puzzled, I took my problem to the assorted minds in another place.

ramtops found a ZDnet piece from a year ago on a worm that replicated by using Google to search for unpatched PHPBB installations. It looks like Google's stopgap solution for preventing the spread of the Santy worm is still in place - and blocking access to queries.

I'm surprised that no one at Google has put a better fix in place yet. Especially as the worm isn't likely to be making its queries with the HTTP headers of a browser only released a couple of weeks ago.

Even a CAPTCHA would be better than blocking queries completely.
Tags: google, phpbb, santy worm
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