Chrome to offer constant, real-time protection against malicious sites 24/7

Google is upgrading Chrome’s Safe Browsing security tool by allowing it to provide constant protection against suspicious websites in real-time.

Before going into the update itself, it’s worth covering the backstory. Safe Browsing gives the Chrome browser a list of thousands of well-known, unsafe websites on the internet. Whenever you visit a webpage, the software will check to see if it’s on the list. If it’s there, Chrome will immediately block it and bring up a warning page telling you to stay away. According to Google’s Security Blog, that list is updated every 30 to 60 minutes 24/7. However, the bad actors behind these malicious websites have adapted to the changing landscape.

Google states a majority of these unsafe web pages littering the internet are only around “for less than 10 minutes”. Because the list refreshes every 30 minutes or so, there is a blind spot within this time frame. Bad actors are exploiting the blind spot and slipping through Chrome’s defenses. It’s a small window of opportunity, but it’s enough to do a lot of damage. 

The solution here, as mentioned earlier, is to provide real-time protection.

Security boost

It's important to note the security boost is being made to Safe Browsing's Standard Protection mode. A company representative told us Enhanced mode already has these capabilities, but Google is essentially closing the gap a bit.

The way the new default will work is a little complicated, so here’s a quick breakdown.

Let’s say you visit a website not on Chrome’s list. The browser will then take the page’s URL, break it down into smaller bits of data, and send the packet to a third-party privacy server owned by Fastly, a company specializing in cloud computing. The server then analyzes the data and matches what it finds against its own database. If anything weird is found, Chrome is alerted and will warn you to stay away.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. We didn’t go over exactly how the browser breaks down the URL. If you want more details, we recommend checking out the blog post and Google’s URL hashing guidance page.

Activating the enhanced Safe Browsing does require more information than normal. But it's important to note that neither Google nor Fastly will receive any user identifiers. IP addresses will not be collected. All the security checks you send over are mixed in with requests from other people so it’s all one big mess. And because Fastly runs the server independently, Google has no access to the data.

Accessing the new Safe Browsing tool

The same representative from earlier told us the upgrade is live on Chrome for desktop and iOS, but not for Android. That's coming later on in the month.

Because it'll be the default, you don't have to manually activate it. To obtain the tool, start by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner. Go to Help, then select About Google Chrome. The installation will begin automatically. Relaunch the browser once prompted.

Return to the Settings menu, select Privacy and Security on the left, then go to the Security tab. Expand Safe Browsing and you should see Safe Browsing's standard mode with the updated text. We didn't receive the patch at the time of this writing, so the image below is still the old version. It's just an example of what you might see.

Chrome's Safe Browsing

(Image credit: Future)

Since the Android version isn't out yet, we can't show you its process although we suspect it'll be very similar to the desktop experience. 

It's unknown what kind of extra information Google will ask from its users. Presumably, the data it'll want will be the same listed under the Enhanced mode: system information, extension activity, and the like. We reached out to Google for more details. This story will be updated at a later time.

To learn how to further beef up your computer's security, check out TechRadar's roundup of the best antivirus software for 2024.

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Bing AI may be getting crushed in the battle against Google search – but Microsoft might not care

Microsoft doubtless hoped that the launch of Bing AI would help attract users to the Bing search site, but that hasn’t happened going by some fresh stats.

Statcounter has just aired some figures on search volume and the bad news (for Microsoft) is that Bing’s share of the search engine market in the US has dropped by half a percentage point.

Bing was on 7.4% this time last year, but is now on 6.9%, whereas Google has notched up from 86.7% in 2022 to 88% now.

Okay, so it’s not a big drop for Bing, but nonetheless, it shows that – at least according to one source – Microsoft’s AI chatbot hasn’t made any difference to its search traffic.

The better news in these stats (spotted by Windows Central) is that Edge is up 1% in the browser market, but it’s only on 5.5% in total, so Google’s Chrome remains just as dominant as its search engine.

Analysis: A reversal of priorities?

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Bing AI not helping Microsoft’s search traffic efforts. A few months ago, Statcounter’s global stats also showed that traffic fell slightly (to be fair, by 0.04% which is margin of error stuff, so effectively it stayed the same). The global stats for October 2023 also show a slight drop year-on-year.

The broad conclusion, then, is that Bing AI is not managing to drive any meaningful level of traffic to Microsoft’s search engine.

Does Microsoft really care overly about that, though? Maybe not so much now we’d suggest.

While the initial aim with Bing AI (or a big part of it) was to boost the attractiveness of, since the launch of the chatbot, the AI explosion has been so pronounced – and the bandwagon so attention-grabbing – that artificial intelligence has become overrulingly important itself.

By which we mean that Bing search considerations, or persuading folks to adopt Windows 11 to get the Copilot AI (essentially integrated Bing with bells and whistles, though not many of the latter yet), have now taken a back seat.

If a fresh rumor is to be believed, Microsoft is bringing Copilot to Windows 10 – a surprising move after the software giant said that the older OS was no longer getting any new features (except for very minor tweaks – and the AI assistant most definitely is a major upgrade).

What this shows – if true – is that Microsoft is less worried about encouraging Windows 11 adoption (which has been seriously slow) and using Copilot as a carrot to persuade upgrades, and more concerned about getting all the many folks on Windows 10 using its AI, bolstering the figures for that.

We can believe this might be the case, given that in the bigger picture, AI has become such a huge deal – with everyone getting in on the act, and for example the likes of Nvidia making a ton of profit from its AI-targeted GPUs. Team Green is very keenly focused on those products now, to the extent that we even worry about the future of the best gaming GPUs (the GeForce ones, that is).

It’s likely the end goal is shifting to Microsoft advancing its AI tech across web properties and its desktop OS ecosystem alike, getting people used to Bing or Copilot being their everyday helper – and that being the primary goal.

Rather than leveraging AI to push the company’s other products, Microsoft is now prioritizing the other way round, possibly. Maybe also thinking that if its AI systems gain enough clout, users will follow to other products eventually, anyway.

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The AI backlash begins: artists could protect against plagiarism with this powerful tool

A team of researchers at the University of Chicago has created a tool aimed to help online artists “fight back against AI companies” by inserting, in essence, poison pills into their original work.

Called Nightshade, after the family of toxic plants, the software is said to introduce poisonous pixels to digital art that messes with the way generative AIs interpret them. The way models like Stable Diffusion work is they scour the internet, picking up as many images as they can to use as training data. What Nightshade does is exploit this “security vulnerability”. As explained by the MIT Technology Review, these “poisoned data samples can manipulate models into learning” the wrong thing. For example, it could see a picture of a dog as a cat or a car as a cow.

Poison tactics

As part of the testing phase, the team fed Stable Diffusion infected content and “then prompted it to create images of dogs”. After being given 50 samples, the AI generated pictures of misshapen dogs with six legs. After 100, you begin to see something resembling a cat. Once it was given 300, dogs became full-fledged cats. Below, you'll see the other trials.

Nightshade tests

(Image credit: University of Chicago/MIT Technology Review)

The report goes on to say Nightshade also affects “tangentially related” ideas because generative AIs are good “at making connections between words”. Messing with the word “dog” jumbles similar concepts like puppy, husky, or wolf. This extends to art styles as well. 

Nightshade's tangentially related samples

(Image credit: University of Chicago/MIT Technology Review)

It is possible for AI companies to remove the toxic pixels. However as the MIT post points out, it is “very difficult to remove them”. Developers would have to “find and delete each corrupted sample.” To give you an idea of how tough this would be, a 1080p image has over two million pixels. If that wasn’t difficult enough, these models “are trained on billions of data samples.” So imagine looking through a sea of pixels to find the handful messing with the AI engine.

At least, that’s the idea. Nightshade is still in the early stages. Currently, the tech “has been submitted for peer review at [the] computer security conference Usenix.” MIT Technology Review managed to get a sneak peek.

Future endeavors

We reached out to team lead, Professor Ben Y. Zhao at the University of Chicago, with several questions. 

He told us they do have plans to “implement and release Nightshade for public use.” It’ll be a part of Glaze as an “optional feature”. Glaze, if you’re not familiar, is another tool Zhao’s team created giving artists the ability to “mask their own personal style” and stop it from being adopted by artificial intelligence. He also hopes to make Nightshade open source, allowing others to make their own venom.

Additionally, we asked Professor Zhao if there are plans to create a Nightshade for video and literature. Right now, multiple literary authors are suing OpenAI claiming the program is “using their copyrighted works without permission.” He states developing toxic software for other works will be a big endeavor “since those domains are quite different from static images. The team has “no plans to tackle those, yet.” Hopefully someday soon.

So far, initial reactions to Nightshade are positive. Junfeng Yang, a computer science professor at Columbia University, told Technology Review this could make AI developers “respect artists’ rights more”. Maybe even be willing to pay out royalties.

If you're interested in picking up illustration as a hobby, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best digital art and drawing software in 2023.

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Is Bing AI helping in the fight against Google? Apparently not – and Microsoft’s in denial

New statistics seemingly show that Microsoft’s Bing AI is not helping to drive traffic to its search site.

According to analytics firm Statcounter, has actually fallen in terms of its market share for global search engine traffic, so this isn’t even a case of the Bing chatbot only providing small gains – in fact, the search site has gone backward (as highlighted by ZDNet).

At least compared to January 2023, when had a share of 3.03% of the search market, and as of July of this year, that has dipped down very slightly to 2.99%.

In fairness to Microsoft, that 2.99% figure does represent a small gain on the 2.76% share had in April.

ZDNet also points to another analytics firm, Similarweb, which puts’s search share at 3.23% – which is pretty much the same as it was at the start of 2023.

Another analytics outfit, YipitData, also has numbers that apparently show Bing traffic at 95.7 million in February, growing to 99.2 million in April – but then falling to 97.7 million in June (this excludes China, mind you, and mobile devices too).

The overall picture this paints very much looks like has remained pretty much flat in terms of how many users are searching the web with the site, then, despite the launch of the Bing AI in February, and subsequent full rollout in May – and that was clearly not Microsoft’s plan.

Analysis: An uphill battle (and a half)

Microsoft is faced with a very steep uphill battle in the search sphere, where Google has been dominant for so long at this point. So, when the Bing chatbot came onto the scene, Microsoft was doubtless thinking this could be the secret weapon it needs to really cut into Google’s big lead.

Even Google was worried about what might happen – just recall the mad rush to launch its rival Bard AI, when Microsoft pushed Bing AI onto the scene (also rather too early, before it was really ready).

As noted, these fresh stats look worrying in terms of the light they cast on Bing AI’s impact, but Microsoft isn’t buying it, and claims the figures here are skewed – and that they fail to account for surfers who go directly to the Bing chatbot’s page.

Microsoft told ZDNet: “Our usage signals show strong growth since February and because of new access points like Bing Chat Enterprise, we’ve experienced one of our biggest growth months on record since we launched our new Bing and Edge experience.”

For their part, the analytics firms told ZDNet that their figures do take direct traffic to Bing Chat into account.

David F. Carr, senior insights manager at Similarweb, commented: “Microsoft says their internal numbers show greater growth than we’re reflecting. It’s possible that we’re missing some of the Bing Chat interactions that use an Edge sidebar or extension, but I don’t know how significant that is in the grand scheme of things.”

While we can’t know the full story here, and we certainly wouldn’t say Microsoft doesn’t have something of a point, the fact that there are three separate sources of third-party data which appear to – roughly – match with each other, is rather telling. And as Carr observes, any missing bits and pieces of data will likely be of questionable significance.

All that said, this will be a very long game for Microsoft, with the idea being that Edge,, and Bing AI will all reinforce each other, and ultimately build browser share as well as search share, taking on Chrome in the battle for the best web browser, as well as Google search.

Microsoft is certainly building in features for its chatbot at a rate of knots, and over time, Bing AI could help to build search (and browser) adoption, but at this admittedly relatively early stage, nothing much appears to be happening yet.

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