What is a blacklist for URLs? Before we can tackle that, let’s consider that black hats and cyber pirates ran amok and wreaked havoc until the internet was like the wild west. Fortunately, however, to help police and protect our precious internet, policymakers and other authoritative bodies have (slowly but surely) enforced guidelines and limits. The PCI Security Standards Council and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are only one such example (PCI-DSS). Five major credit firms formed the council to implement the Payment Card Industry Data Protection Standards (PCI DSS) after years of a worsening credit card fraud problem to ensure that consumers can access their payment cards securely on the internet.
In many other parts of the internet, this type of policing can be seen. An outstanding example of that is a URL blacklist. Basically, a URL blacklist is a list of websites that a search engine, antivirus software vendor or another authoritative entity finds to be vulnerable or harmful. It has some steep implications for the website user when a website enters a URL blacklist. This is a way for search engines, antivirus service providers, etc., much like PCI DSS, to maintain a degree of transparency and ensuring that websites are kept to a safety level.
You’ll want to know more about this subject whether you’re a website user, are interested in building a website, or whether you’ve got your site on a blacklist of URLs (yikes). We will address your questions in this article like “what is a blacklist of URLs?” what it means for your website, how you end up on one in the first place, and what you can do to fix the problem.
What is a blacklist of URLs? Blacklist vs Blocklist
In general, from individual websites and IP addresses to whole domains, a blacklist might contain anything. So, a blacklist of URLs is a list of unique websites/URLs classified as unsafe. Google is moving away from languages such as “blacklists” and “whitelists” should also be remembered. “These phrases are substituted in some cases by words such as “blocklists” and “allowlists.
But this might leave you questioning how or why you may unexpectedly find your site on such a list, regardless of what they call it. Your URL is effectively excluded from search engine databases, antivirus services, etc. when added on a URL blacklist. The ‘Google blacklist,’ which is better known as the Google Secure Browsing list, is one of the most widely known URL blacklists. You are in for a lot of trouble if your website falls on this list.
What Does Being Blacklisted Mean for The Website?
Not only one, either two or three web browsers will get the website blocked. The obvious one is Google Chrome, but Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari browser will still block your website (due to Google’s browser partnership) as well. This are among the browsers that are most used in the U.S.
So if the site ends up on the naughty list, what does it sound like to website visitors? When the site is on the Google Secure Surfing list, visitors can see these warnings:
Users can see the warning message when they visit your domain on Google Chrome (if your site is on the blacklist of Google’s Secure Browsing URL).
Users can see an alert page when they access the Mozilla Firefox domain (if your site is on the blacklist of Google’s Secure Surfing URL).
You will now not be allowed to run Google Advertising, which will affect your ability to drive traffic, in addition to users being barred from your website by the aforementioned web browsers. To make matters worse, there will be an alert note next to your website name that reads something along the lines of “this site may damage your machine,” or though a user runs a different web browser and does a Google search.
And then, the cherry on top: if the connection is sent to a Gmail address or if a person attempts to click through from a Gmail address to your website, your website will be flagged. Indeed, a nightmare.
Google Isn’t the Only Company That Has a URL Blacklist…
Google, to put it simply, is a far-reaching, huge corporation. So, it makes sense that as their own URL blacklist, many web security systems follow the Google Secure Browsing list. Yet Google isn’t the only one in the world of blacklists for URLs and domain block lists. There are other organisations that have their own blacklists that you can be aware of, in addition to Google Secure Surfing.
- There is a blacklist of Norton Safe Web URLs, which simply means that users will be excluded from the website by using Norton Antivirus or the Norton Safe Web application and receive an alert message.
- Likewise, with the McAfee WebAdvisor service, McAfee uses its own blacklist. Being on this blacklist means that the website will be blocked by users who deploy McAfee applications.
- Bing is another search engine which carries a URL blacklist. If you land on their URL blacklist, when attempting to access your site using their search engine, visitors may get a similar alert (like Google).
How Does a URL Get Blacklisted?
We’re so grateful that you asked! Search engines and vendors of antivirus services have made it their responsibility to ensure the safety of consumers who browse by using their apps. It’s clear why that will be prioritised by a business whose aim is to provide web protection. As for search engines, they aim to have the best possible user experience, and “perfect experience” does not exactly shout for leading people to unsecured websites. In this line of thought, the conditions for being put on a URL blacklist have been established.
Essentially, if the company blacklisting the domain claims it, a page would land on the URL blacklist:
- It has been developed for a malicious reason, has been hacked (and is then deemed insecure or harmful for users to communicate with), or has a misleading motive.
Okay, we’re going to presume that by your website you’re not a hacker running a phishing scheme and that you’re a legitimate owner of the domain who’s looking to get off a blacklist. This means that you fell into the range of second or third.
However, it should be remembered that if there are enough users who flag the website as spam, certain blacklists, including those of antivirus vendors, will blacklist the URL. So, if you end up on a blacklist of URLs, it’s worth taking a good look at your website to make sure there’s nothing that might come off as suspect immediately, such as:
- Split ties or an excess of redirects.
- Too many commercials.
- Material which looks out of place (such as the actual code shown on your website instead of what it is intended to display).
Even, make sure to take a peek at the email click-tracking programmes that you can need. Through using services that are synonymous with redirections to phishing pages, even legitimate organisations will find themselves on the Google URL blacklist.
Now, back to the two main explanations for finding yourself on a blacklist of URLs…
Your Website Has Been Hacked
Since the website has been compromised, one of the most common reasons a website is placed on a URL blacklist is. And several times, the host of a website doesn’t even know that. There may be several explanations for this, including:
- Using weak passwords that are easily guessable,
- Do not upgrade or fix your website or applications (which may leave bugs that hackers can exploit on your website), or
- Someone who by some ways has access to your website (such as through the use of compromised credentials, which they could have gotten by sending you or one of your employees a phishing link).
What Is Happening When My Website is Hacked?
There are a couple of things a hacker may be doing on your website…
- Your website shows information that is available to everyone, but not to you. The hacker can display content that is usually seen as negative or advertise something that has nothing to do with your website.
- What makes things much worse, though, is that they mask it from you but allow the updated version to be used by other users. This encourages them to continue to trick people into communicating with their bogus material when you’re no wiser on what’s going on.
- To distribute malicious material or apps, the website can be used. As a means to distribute ransomware, the hacker uses the website. Via your links, downloadable attachments, interactive content, or even when a user just visits your site, they can do this.
- To target other websites, a hacker can use your website. For starters, as part of a large network of websites/servers called a botnet, they could use your website. Then, to conduct DDoS attacks on other websites, the hacker might use the botnet.
Another factor you might end up on a blacklist of URLs is attributable to some form of misleading technique being deployed. It doesn’t know if it was done accidentally, or if you knew it was deceptive. What matters is that, depending on the URL blacklist you end up on, you will lose traffic, probably the majority of your traffic, unless you resolve the problem.
Any of the dishonest techniques that could get you flagged and blacklisted include:
- You are using a third-party programme that does not express explicitly. It’s a huge deal if your website uses a third-party service, or if a third party runs your website for you and this arrangement is not revealed to website users. It’s best to be open about the relationship and educate customers when using third parties to run the website or to offer a big service (like payment management).
- Altering the personal computer environment of a customer. Another no-no is whether the programme generated by your website unknowingly changes the surfing or computer experience of a consumer. This may mean that without the permission or consent of a customer, the programme adjusts a personal browser environment.
How to Get Your Website Off a URL Blacklist
If you think a URL blacklist is hurting your website, here’s what you’re doing…
Whether you’re Blacklisted & When, find out
In order to see if the website is on a URL blacklist, there are several resources you can use. Google Secure Browsing enables you to verify your status with them quickly. Free tools such as VirusTotal also exist that search for many of the blacklists listed in this post.
Fix the Problem to Ensure It Doesn’t Happen Again
It’s time to roll up your sleeves to resolve the dilemma after you learn where you’re blacklisted and why. There are lots of ways of eliminating malware if the problem is malware. Using an automatic malware detector & removal tool is one of the most powerful and effective approaches. For instance, a tool such as CodeGuard provides an automated malware scanner and remediation tool (plus an automated backup tool for the website).
In order to ensure that the hack does not happen again, there are also tools for automation that can assist with this. I recommend you to read any of the following relevant posts that discuss how to purge your malware website and avoid potential hacks from occurring:
- Did I get hacked? How afterwards to know & what to do
- What to Do If You Hack Your Website
- How to protect a website: 21 Companies’ Website Security Tips
Submit Your Site for Blacklist Removal
You must now email the service provider that blacklisted your website to order its removal from the list after you address the matter. For eg, here is what you do if you end up on the Google Safe Browsing list:
- Build an account for Google’s Search Console.
- You’ll have to check your website after signing up (do it).
- Go to the Security Problems portion of your Google Search Console account until checked (it can be found under the Security & Manual tab).
- You’ll need to press Request a Check there.
- Finally, fill out the questionnaire, detailing how the problem has been fixed and, if necessary, how a defence has been applied that would prevent the problem from occurring again.
- Google can restrict your right to request a review to once every 30 days if you run into the same problems again.
For some other service provider who can blacklist the site, the procedure isn’t too different. As an example, take Norton Safe Web. You take the same steps essentially: build an account, check the website, and file a “domain conflict.” There are also advanced applications that detect blacklists and try to automatically delete the site from them.
What Is a URL Blacklist — A Final Word
We hope that the question “what is a blacklist of URLs?” and why they exist is answered. Our goal was also to give you some useful tips about how to prevent the problem in the first place, and if you find your site on one, how to get off a blacklist. URL blacklists, as you can see, can cause organisations a lot of difficulties, but landing on one is a potentially reversible procedure, as long as you know the steps to take.