The search engine Google sparked online confusion on Saturday when a glitch in its security program temporarily warned users that Web sites from all search results were potentially harmful to their computers.
Between 2:30pm and 3:25pm, sites turned up in search results were marked as harmful and users received the message: “Warning! This site may harm your computer.”
“What happened? Very simply, human error,” Goggle vice president for search products and user experience Marissa Mayer said on the company’s official blog.
Google receives regular updates to a list of malicious websites from StopBadware.org, which investigates consumer complaints.
“We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on the site this morning,” Mayer said.
“Unfortunately [and here’s the human error], the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs,” she said.
Users who tried to access the site were blocked by Google, which directed them to StopBadware.org.
The firm works with Google to determine which sites are dangerous.
“This led to a denial of service of our Web site as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information,” StopBadware.org wrote in a statement.
Google was back to normal between 3:10pm and 3:25pm.
The company expressed “apologies to any of you who were inconvenienced this morning and to site owners whose pages were incorrectly labeled.”
The Mountain View, California-based company said it “will carefully investigate this incident and put more robust file checks in place to prevent it from happening again.”
The outage, widely discussed on Internet blogs and forums, did not affect Google’s news search service.
Google controls about 70 percent of Internet searches, a market share that has grown steadily in recent years.