Google adds malware alerts for webmasters

Google has added malware alerts to its Webmaster Tools service, essentially offering web site anti-virus to rookie webmasters.

The new Tools tab tells webmasters if Google has found malware on their sites. It provides the URLs where it found the bad code, but no specific details of what it found.

Webmasters are advised to then manually remove the offending scripts, before submitting a request for reconsideration to Google. This request form is now baked into the Webmaster Tools interface.

The new service is designed for legit webmasters whose sites have been compromised by malicious hackers as a means to distribute drive-by downloads.

It's a common problem. Only last week many Network Solutions hosting customers have found their sites quietly loaded with malicious Javascript, and have been penalised by Google as a result.

When Google detects malware, it warns people arriving at affected sites via search that their computers may be at risk, potentially decimating page views and costing the webmaster money.

The system has been criticised for including malware delivered via third-party ad networks that the webmaster may not be aware of. One critic compared the scheme to a protection racket.