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by Ray Carlson

Q: A large red box popped up on my screen warning me not to go to a website I had clicked on in the past. My antivirus program's name is not visible on this box. Is it fake or could it be hiding a virus?

A: You are probably looking at the new Safe Browsing warning used by Google. Google Safe Browsing asks volunteers to alert them if that person feels a particular website is not safe because it has hidden malware or phishing attempts. If Google verifies the threat, they arrange to have a warning pop up when anyone tries to go to that website. The box was white with the Google Chrome image at the top and a cartoon on the side. Research suggested that some people ignored the warning because it was so user friendly, particularly if they had been to the same site before.

The Google Safe Browsing program is used by Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, but these two browsers use their own warning pop-ups. On the newest Google version of the warning, there is an "X" at the top instead of the Chrome image and the word "Google" is only mentioned on the last line. You can click a box called "details" to get more information about the threat. After clicking that box and seeing the information, you can decide to ignore the warning and go to the website. Keep in mind, however, that Google tries to verify the information about a threat, so be cautious about ignoring the warning. You should also get warnings from most antivirus programs if they recognize you are going to a risky website.

The fact that you got this warning means you have one of the latest trial versions of Chrome. Google editors indicate that they are planning to use the warnings in all versions in the near future.

Published: Courier 7/27/14 - Page 3D