Channel Sees Opportunity In Google's Security Data Tool

Google launched a new section of its online Transparency Report Tuesday, designed to shed more light on malware and phishing sites, according to the company's official blog.

The search giant's online Transparency Report, which documents government requests for data and content removal, added a new Safe Browsing tab featuring information on malicious sites that try to gain control of a user's computer and access to passwords and private information used in identity theft and fraud.

From the global location of a hosted malware site to the number of times suspicious websites are flagged a week, Google's new security report focuses its data on the source of the malware attacks and how websites respond to them.

[Related: Google Reveals Government Demands For Cloud Data ]

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In an intelligence note prepared by the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI, the government agency said it's seen a rise in cybercriminals using "spear-phishing attacks to target multiple industry sectors."

The note, published Tuesday, warned that victims of malware attacks are often targeted because of their involvement with specific industries or companies that cybercriminals seek to penetrate.

As a part of Google's expanding security transparency efforts, the company will send out alerts to notify Web developers if their site has been hacked, give examples of the types of code injected into their site, and provide the subsequent steps needed to get rid of the malicious code -- as well as track developer's response time and the rate of re-infection for sites that may have an "underlying vulnerability."

Dave Monk, CEO of ArcSource Consulting Inc., a Berkeley, Calif.-based consulting firm and Google Apps VAR, said the tech company has been "leading the way" in transparency for years and is in a "unique position" to provide safe browsing information on a large scale.

"The new additions to the transparency report give channel partners more educational resources to help educate customers on security issues," Monk said. "We will be using the safe browsing and info to help show our customers the reality of increasing security threats -- that hackers are not coming after them in particular; hackers are coming after everyone."

Paul Hilbert, co-owner of Network Doctor, an Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based managed service provider, said he hopes security vendors will take note of the information in the Google reports.

"I think that this is the type of thing, if Google's going to track the information, that vendors should add to a blacklist, so it becomes safer for any client computer to surf the Internet," Hilbert said. "I think it's an ongoing issue that's becoming more of a problem. The viruses of the '90s are the malwares of the 2000's."

NEXT: Political Move Or Channel Opportunity?

Mike Carper, founder and senior adviser at Signature Mac, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based VAR that specializes in Apple products, said that if the information is available someone will use it, but he doesn't think the new security data will apply to many businesses in the channel.

"Our website is safe, and I know our vendors' sites are safe," he said. Businesses that don't vet the ads on their site, however, Carper said could benefit from Google's report. "A business that used any advertisement sent to them, then they would benefit [from the data]."

While Carper feels this addition to Google's report is a political move in the National Security Agency's information-gathering controversy, he said it may be helpful to be able to compile a go-to list of malicious sites.

"It might do me good," Carper said, "where I could bring up a list of malware sites from an IT standpoint, because there's no way to prove that otherwise."

Michael Oh, president and founder of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based IT provider, said that although he hadn't really thought of Google's security data as a channel opportunity, he saw a few ways companies could use it to their advantage.

"Many of us in the channel have businesses that are related to Web development," Oh said. "I think it's certainly useful information that many [solution providers] could use to approach companies about offering services to help keep their sites secure."

While the way the information could be used depends on a company's business model, Oh said, many traditional hardware- or software-only companies are beginning to crossover into Web development as well.

"Particularly as a provider of hosting, we don't know what people are hosting on their servers," Oh said. "If their [software] hasn't be updated and is vulnerable, ... it's hard for us to know that information."

Another way Google's security tracking could be applied to vendors is by making sure clients don't end up listed as a suspicious site, Oh said.

"As more of an IT provider, you can make sure your clients aren't showing up on these lists," Oh said. "All of that is obviously a really good thing."

NEXT: How Much Helpful Data Can Google's Report Glean?

David Hoff, co-founder and CTO of Cloud Sherpas, a cloud services brokerage based in Boston, said he doesn't see solution providers using Google's security data as specific input and that the amount of "actionable information" they'll be able to glean from the reports will be limited.

"Because the data is so abstracted, it's not giving specific information," Hoff said. "It's like having an element of the weather forecast, like the humidity for the day. Does that change your advertising campaign or direction? It definitely has the potential, [but] I don't know if it's going to."

While Hoff described Google's data as more "anecdotal support" and that he wouldn't look to it to identify finite pieces of information, he did say that it might be useful for identifying "macro-trends."

According to the data in Google's new Safe Browsing section of its report, the company sent out over 63 million warnings to users about websites "identified as unsafe" last July -- which dipped down to a low of 8.6 million in March 2013, before skyrocketing again to over 88 million in mid-June.

"In the last month or so there have been some pretty massive attacks," Hoff said. "When you look at the graph and you see the massive spike in June; that's a significant thing that a.) organizations should be aware of and b.) investing in tools to prevent."