Safe Browsing on Google Chrome adds real-time protection against malicious sites

The browser will check URLs in real-time without disclosing which sites you visit to Google's servers.


Google says it's upgrading the default Safe Browsing mode in Chrome to offer better protection against malicious websites. Until now, this mode has used a locally stored list to check whether a site or file may be dangerous. The list updates every 30-60 minutes but Google says that a malicious website only exists for 10 minutes on average.

To combat that, Google is drawing from a feature in Safe Browsing’s Enhanced protection mode to check sites against a server-side list of known unsafe sites in real-time. The Enhanced protection mode is opt-in, but Google found that these real-time checks offer "significant value," so it's bringing them to the standard version of Safe Browsing.

The company notes that Safe Browsing is used on more than 5 billion devices and it helps protect against the likes of phishing, malware and unwanted software. The mode evaluates north of 10 billion URLs and files day. Chrome shows users more than 3 million warnings for potential threats through this feature on the daily. However, Google believes that real-time URL checks will help it to block 25 percent more phishing attempts.

Google says it's keeping privacy in mind as Safe Browsing doesn't share the URLs of sites you visit with the company. Chrome says this feature employs hashing and encryption. A privacy server strips out any details that might identify a user before forwarding encrypted hash prefixes to the Safe Browsing server to check against the list of sketchy sites.

The company still recommends that users adopt the Enhanced protection mode as it offers additional safeguards. The Safe Browsing option only checks against a list of sites that are already known to be unsafe. Enhanced protection looks at additional factors and uses machine learning to identify risky sites that Safe Browsing hasn't yet confirmed as potentially malicious. Freshly created sites and those that mask their true behavior may not be picked up on by Safe Browsing’s detection systems right away.

The new Safe Browsing feature is available now on the latest desktop and iOS versions of Chrome now. It's coming to the Android app later this month.

Meanwhile, Google says it recently updated Chrome's Password Checkup feature on iOS. Along with alerting you to compromised passwords, it will now warn you about weak and reused credentials.