SSL Protected Google Search Used to Access Adult Content
Article by George Norman
On 17 Jun 2010
Remember that back in May, Mountain View-based search engine giant Google announced the launch of an SSL protected, encrypted web search engine? The encrypted beta version of Google search was initially available at https://www.google.com, but Google has now announced it would be moving it to a new location.

One question comes to mind: Why would Google do such a thing? The answer is a bit surprising (or at least amusing – definitely put a smile on my face). It turns out that in some schools the encrypted Google search was used to bypass the content filters. Consequently students were able to access adult material.

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President of Google Enterprise, Dave Girouard comments: “We recently launched a beta version of encrypted (SSL) search at https://www.google.com to prevent people from intercepting our users’ search terms and results. However, because encrypted search creates an obscured channel between a user’s computer and Google, users who go to https://www.google.com can bypass some schools’ content filters. This can make it hard for schools to stop students from accessing adult content.”

To prevent students from accessing inappropriate content, Google decide to move encrypted search to a new domain.

The schools themselves could have taken measures to prevent students from accessing adult content, but they wouldn’t have been efficient. For example schools could have used the SafeSearch lock, which basically locks Google search in SafeSearch mode. But doing so would be impractical, considering how many computers some institutions have. The schools could have blocked encrypted search – but this would block access to Gmail for example, which uses HTTPS as default since January. The safest bet is to move SSL search to a new domain.

Dave Girouard again: “We will move encrypted search to a new hostname – so schools can limit access to SSL search without disrupting other Google services, like Google Apps for Education. Longer term, we are exploring other options like moving authentication to its own hostname so that we can return encrypted search to https://www.google.com. Safety and security matter to Google, and we are committed to working with our partners in education so that we help keep students safe and secure on the Internet.”



Tags: Google, SSL, Encryption, Google search
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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