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As we all know Google detects malware on websites and if found it will add a warning to that site in its search results. It will also add it to a blacklist that Chrome (and other browsers?) use, so if anyone tries to visit the infected site then they'll get a warning.

One of the websites that is operated by the company I work for acts as a directory site, and links to thousands of other sites. The other day we received a message from Google advising that our site was being blacklisted because one of the sites that we linked to was hosting malware. This resulted in anyone visiting our site in Chrome (and maybe other browsers that subscribe to Google's blacklist) receiving a warning, making people think that our site was infected!

We fixed the problem by removing the link to the offending site and validating with Google, which was enough for Google to remove our site from their blacklist.

But the problem remains, what if this happens again in the future? If any site that we link to gets infected then it can impact on our site, which isn't good.

Can anyone confirm for me that this is indeed how Google works? That it blacklists sites that link to infected sites?

I find it hard to believe that this is how it works, as if it is correct then many sites are in danger of being blacklisted. I mean, if I post a public comment on Facebook that links to an infected site then is Google going to blacklist Facebook? If I post a link to an infected site on Stackoverflow then will Stackoverflow be blacklisted? This would make it very easy for people to harm the reputation of sites.

I did some digging and found another directory site that also links to the infected site that affected us, and Google lists them on its "Safe Browsing Site Status" page for the infected site as linking to the infected site, but for some reason it hasn't blacklisted them.

I've suggested adding rel="nofollow" to our external links, as a way of advising Google that we don't endorse the external sites, but I don't know if this is enough to fix the problem.

  • That is not what rel=nofollow is for or what it does so, no, it's not what will fix the problem. – Rob Jun 22 '16 at 2:31
  • You get the malware notice if google detects malware on your site, not sites you link to. However, sometimes you can embed stuff from other sites that gets hacked and then you get the notice too in search results - as it is on your site. For more accurate information. you would be best posting in google's webmaster forum. – user29671 Jun 22 '16 at 8:07
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I am not sure how Google handles this, but maybe pages of your site were redirecting instead of just linking to that other site. I was asked to deal with a similar case on a site recently, and Google had only underlined certain urls that the combination of their url parameters were creating immediate redirections to the infected site.

So this might make a difference, as it behaves similarly to how malicious scripts may work if they exist in your site, to drive visitors to other harmful pages.

As for the nofollow in your links, I doubt it can have any impact in cases of a redirection.

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Google does not check websites for infections directly, however, it does use the various black-lists and some anti-virus packages feed these lists. It is very likely that Google got the information this way.

Do not worry about the black-lists. It does not apply in your scenario. Had it been your site, the warning would clear up within a few days after fixing the problem. However, since you only linked to the site, I would think that the specific page should be updated within the index. To make this happen, you can use Google's Search Console (webmaster tools) and Fetch as Google to fetch the page with the link. From there, you can Submit to Index. When you use this option, it is not immediate as it would seem. Within 1-2 days, the regular googlebot will visit the page and fully index the page as it would normally. At least your page will be updated for whatever processes Google uses in these cases.

While this may not clear the problem, it is as much as you can do. I rather suspect it will help. It may be that Google will show a bit of kindness and refetch the page anyway. Google is rather kind so I would expect this. Otherwise, it is a hurry-up and wait scenario.

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