If you are a site owner, and while opening your site in Google Chrome you see the error “the site ahead contains harmful programs” it is a matter of concern. You need to think about it to fix this ASAP because Chrome browser displays this error when your site is hacked, or it is distributing viruses or malware to the visitors’ computer.
When users get this error, 95% chances they will get back to safety. Thus, you lose traffic. Therefore, you need to see to this matter seriously and fix it.
To know the fix of anything, you need to know the reason(s) for the problem. As I said that the error “the site ahead contains harmful programs” comes when your site is hacked, or it has malware, you would need to check your site’s files by connecting to the server via FTP and Database to know about any suspicious activities. Moreover, there can be many other reasons as well for this error which I am listing down:
Possible reasons For The Error “the site ahead contains harmful Programs”:
Your site is hacked
When your site is hacked, hackers get the access to your site’s database or control panel from where they might inject some malicious scripts, ad codes, files or anything. That is why when Google suspects some unusual activities on your site, it starts showing the alert so that users who visit will be aware of the danger. By this error reporting, you as the site owner also come to know about this issue and try to fix it. However, if you have submitted your site to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), you get the alert there too.
Your site has virus
Sometimes when you upload some files on your site’s server to update something like design or functionality, etc. there are possibilities that the files you have uploaded are infected, and that cause your site gets the infection too as the infected data is uploaded. Google instantly detects it and starts showing the alert. This is not common if you have an updated antivirus on your computer. But, if you do not have any antivirus, your files are not checked whether they are infected or not, and that’s where you get into the problem as without checking them you just upload those files on the site and the site gets viruses.
Your site distributes Malware
If you are giving something to download on your site, you need to be sure that all the files to be downloaded, are malware free. If one or many files are having malware, it will infect the users’ computer when they download files from your site. Also, if the site has malware, it may infect other websites on the same shared network too. These are the reasons; Google Chrome shows the error “the site ahead contains harmful Programs” so that a user can get back from the site to stay safe.
Using Low-Quality Ads
If you are using some ads from the low-quality network which accepts advertisers of any type without testing their quality, your site may get the issue because of this too. When you place ad codes of such low-quality networks on your site, it does show various ads. Since the ad network is not a good one, their ads may be suspicious that are pointing to some sites which are complete spam or involved in malicious activities. And, due to this reason, your site will be on the alert, and the error will start showing in the chrome whenever someone opens your website.
In short, your site points to the websites which are involved in malicious activities which make Google to put your site on alert and start displaying the safety alert to the users.
Though this is not a threat actually, Google may still show the error if you have some content on your site, but you made it hidden from the users. It is actually against the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines as well. So, Google put an alert for such sites too.
These are some possible reasons for this error. Now, let’s talk about fixing the issue.
How to Fix this Error?
The fix depends on the cause, and that is why fixes can be different for different websites depending on the reason for the error.
If you see the error, first check out your files and database using FTP or cPanel to look for any suspicious activities. If you are well aware of files on your server, you might be able to find out foreign-looking files or folders.
You can easily sort the files by clicking on Last Modified, and you will see the latest modified files and folders with dates. If you haven’t updated anything in a while, you can check out those files and folders of recent dates, and I am sure you will be able to find the hacked content.
A screenshot from Filezilla
Once you find the hacked content, completely remove them first, and then change your FTP/cPanel login details ASAP.
If your site is infected with some viruses or malware, you need to scan your site with some tools to know more about the infection and its details. You can make use of Google’s Safe Browsing tool as well.
If you find out the malware or viruses, try to delete them. By any chance, if you are not able to fix this problem, you can try to hire some experts or go for some security services like Sucuri to scan your site and remove the malicious stuff. You can further use Sucuri to stay safe from further hacking attempts and suspicious activities as well.
Sucuri has been the first choice for security. A huge number of website owners are already using it for securing their websites, and you can go for it too if you have the budget, and you are concerned about the security of your site.
Make sure you have the latest backup of your website before removing the malware or suspicious files so that you will be assured that you have the backup which can be used if the website gets broken while fixing.
If your site doesn’t have viruses or malware and it is not hacked as well, but still the error is coming in the browser, the reason would be the low-quality ads or hidden content.
In these cases, first, remove all the ad codes from your site (Possibly the ones which shows low-quality ads) and also make the hidden content display or remove them if you don’t want to show them.
After you are done with everything to fix the problem, you need to let Google Know that you have fixed the issue. So that it will again review the site and remove the alert.
How to request Google to review your Site after fixing the issues?
Once you are done with removing the hacked content, removing the low-quality ads, etc. go to Google Webmaster tools, then go to Security Issues.
You will be able to see the alert there, now since you have fixed the issues, check the box “I have fixed these issues,” and click on “Request Review.”
Now, Google will check your site again, and if everything is fine, the error will stop displaying.
Whenever Google displays such errors either while opening the Chrome browser or show some error in the search results, you must have to fix the issue first, and then let Google know you have fixed the issue. It is done from Google webmaster dashboard as I said above.
In most cases, Google processes this request within 24 hours. If you have fixed the issues correctly, the error will be removed ASAP.
Make sure that when you request Google for review, you have fixed the problem so that your request will be processed in favor of you.
What to do if you still want to visit the Site with this alert?
As a user if you browse various websites every day and suddenly you start seeing the error “the site ahead contains harmful Programs” on your favorite site which you trust. Despite the error, if you would still like to visit the site; then you can click on Details.
Now, click on Visit this unsafe site
If you are not sure of the website, it’s better to click on Back to Safety or simply close the tab.
How to disable “This site ahead contains harmful programs” error alert on chrome?
If you don’t want to see this safety alert from Chrome, you can change the settings to turn off this error reporting feature in Chrome. To do this, follow the steps:
Go to Settings
Click on Show Advanced Settings
Now, you will see so many options with checkboxes. You can select or deselect the options as per your requirement. Since you want to turn off the safety error reporting, uncheck the option “Protect you and your device from dangerous sites”.
Once you are done, Google Chrome won’t show the error “The site ahead contains harmful programs” even if you visit an infected or compromised website.
I would recommend you not to turn off this feature because it is for your safety. If you don’t get the error and visit any dangerous site, your PC can be infected or compromised. Nowadays, hackers have become smart, and they play tricks to make you download software or programs with which malicious codes are attached. Once you download them, your security gets compromised, and you can get into problems. Therefore, it is better to keep this feature ON to stay safe.
Such errors are shown by the browsers like Chrome to aware the people about the danger of visiting a particular website so that they can decide whether to proceed or not.
So, if you don’t want to your site to lose traffic due to this reason, you must fix things on your site to stop this error alert.
I am sure you are now well aware what can be the issues and what are their fixes. Let me know if you have more questions about it.
Thanks for such an informative post. I do need this safety program. I got few pop-ups out of nowhere and your post came as a rescue.
Good to know that you liked the post, Leena. Moreover, it is not related to those pop-up errors you get on your computer.
Have a good day.
I faced this issue once i go with BitVertiser ads network. I take 1 month to solve this issue. Thanks for sharing a quick manual..
Oh, great to know that, Sneha.
Enjoy the fix.
Seems like almost everyone will face issues while of harmful programs. I think did a wonderful job by publishing this article with working methods.
Will try it soon.
Thanks for coming by Lawrence.
this is a very informative post, as now a days these kinds of problems are increasing day by day. This post is great manual to save our work from these kind of problems. The use of graphical representation as examples is of great help to go step by step.
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful article.