Getting flagged as malware? Some insights.

Malware.  Just mention the word and watch people cringe in fear.  No one likes it and most seek to even avoid saying the word out loud, lest they be stricken by something nefarious.  The topic should not be taken lightly, as getting infected with malware can have dire consequences.  From your brand being tarnished to identity theft, nothing involving malware is a joke.

Which is why it’s taken so seriously by the search engines.

In fact, you’ll notice, inside your Bing Webmaster Tools account, we even post alerts to you if we think your site is associated with malware in some way.  The next step, announced last week, is to send you email alerts when we flag a URL on your site for malware, making sure you have the best chance possible of seeing this important information as fast as possible.

To get the alerts via email, make sure you’ve enabled your account to receive emails.  When you log into your account, look to the left and you’ll see the SETTINGS > Preferences option – click this and you’ll see the information below.   Make sure to fill in an email address you frequently check, otherwise we will email the LiveID associated with your account.  These emails do you no good if they go to an account you don’t check. 

You have to explicitly check the box stating you would like to receive communications from Bing Webmaster tools.  Our privacy policy is handy, but the nuts and bolts are that we won’t be sending you advertising and we won’t share the email with anyone.

Tell us the frequency of emailing you’d like to see, then be sure to select the types of alerts you want to be notified of from the list provided.  Finally, hit the Save button at the bottom.  You can change these settings at any time.

Now, if we see malware associated with your website, you’ll receive not only the alert message inside your tools account, but we’ll also send an email to the account you provided.

Why we flag for malware

The answer might seem obvious, but the reason we scan sites for malware is to protect searchers.  It won’t do us any good to send searchers to a formerly trustworthy site to have the searcher’s computer infected with malware.  That is very bad for business.  In fact, we will even go so far as to remove a listing from the index if that’s what it takes.

Some instances of being flagged for malware aren’t so clear cut, however.  From time to time we encounter scenarios where the site itself is trustworthy, but something the site is associated with, such as an advertising network, may have been flagged for malware.  If your “partner” still has the issue, we’ll flag your listing to ensure searchers remain protected.  If the ad network, in this example, has cleaned up the issue, the flag may still trigger (and thus an alert appears), but we’ll leave the result in the index as we know the threat is passed and the alert from an older instance.
Now, it’s often not as simple as something being infected or not.  While offending code can be easily removed, we have to gain trust again, which is never easy.  If the offending code can be easily removed, it can just as easily be placed back in when we reinstate links within a result. 

What this all boils down to is if you’re seeing a malware alert in your account, don’t panic.  It may not in fact be your site that is infected.  It may be a service you’re using to port something into your website, like the ad network mentioned above.   

The point is you needn’t panic, but you should investigate.  If you see the warning, and know your own site is clear, check the Search results.  Are you still appearing there?  If yes, you can ratchet down the anxiety another level.  But get started investigating on what’s causing the flag, and don’t forget to look to service providers you are connected with.  Being flagged for malware for a short period of time will generally not interfere with your ranking, as we understand it’s usually not a webmaster’s fault.

Step one, though, is to make sure you’re able to get the email alerts.  Sign up for an account, enable the functionality and we’ll keep you looped on anything we find.