Imagine that you spot someone interesting from across the room at a crowded networking event. With canape in hand, you start to make a beeline across the room to chat to them, only to have your way blocked by a friend who says, “Mate. I wouldn’t go and talk to that person. They can’t be trusted and are likely to rip you off.” Would you continue walking or go and talk to someone else?
Now imagine that you are at a different event with a different friend. You spot someone interesting from across the room and ask your friend, “What do you reckon? Are they OK?” Your friend replies, “Don’t know mate. I haven’t heard anything good or bad about them. It’s up to you.” Would you continue walking?
Most people in the first case would walk away. After all, their trusted friend and colleague has flagged the person as dangerous. In the second case, most people give the person the benefit of the doubt and head over for a chat.
What if I tell you that your clients experience this dilemma every time your name comes up in their search engine.
What if I tell you that you and your business are that person across the room, and that the advice your clients are getting about you depends partially on the antivirus program they are running.
Worried yet? You should be!
We have talked before about how to build trust through your website. This new problem stops people from getting to your website in the first place!
Problems with Safe Search
Most antivirus programs have some form of safe search inbuilt into their programs by default. The average home user installs the program with all the features enabled, including safe search browsers.
So far so good. You want your clients to be safe online. But …
Each antivirus program has their own unique way of assessing if your website is safe or not, and some of their approaches are more scorched earth than helpful.
We want all antivirus and anti-malware sites to stop people picking up problems from visiting hacked or malicious sites. But what if even before someone visits your site, and even before the company scans your site for problems, they are waving massive red banners signalling danger about your site and telling people not to visit it?
What if they are doing this based on zero information?
Not if they use Webroot
The Webroot Problem
Webroot is often chosen by IT support companies as their recommended anti-virus solution. It is robust and works well, except that their Webroot SafeSearch takes a unique approach.
Webroot assesses every website as a threat to your security by default. Someone searches for you using their SafeSearch, and a big scary bright orange warning exclamation mark appears next to your business name.
When you investigate further, it explains that visiting this site means you are exposed to a higher than average probability that you will be exposed to malicious code or payloads.
How many clients who use Webroot for their computer security would walk past that warning and continue to your site?
How to remove the Webroot Warning
Yes, my site was flagged by Webroot and I found out through a colleague in our local Chamber of Commerce. The good news is that getting the warning label removed is very straightforward.
Step 1: Go to Webroot’s website reporting link (Brightcloud is the brand name Webroot use for their SafeSearch)
Step 2: Add your URL into the box, jump through the reCaptcha hoop and run the search on your URL.
If the report shows that you are in the clear, with no real-time intelligence threats identified, then you can request a change.
Step 3: Request a category change. Webroot defaults every business to uncategorised. Most of my client websites fell into the Business and economy section.
Step 4: Request a URL Reputation Change. Tick the box that says 81 to 100 and fill in your details, with a quick request that you are the owner of the site and you request that the site is changed.
Changes are assessed within 24 hours, and you will be emailed with the outcome.
What Happens if the Webroot Scan Highlights Problems?
When I ran this scan for two of my clients, problems were found. In our cases, we knew that the sites had not been hacked, and the problems stemmed from bad neighbours in their shared website hosting.
In those situations, you need to contact your web host to discuss the issue and what can be done to resolve the problem.
Of course, the scan may turn up that your site has been hacked. In which case I recommend going to Wordfence to get your site cleaned and secured before doing anything else.
What About Other Antivirus Programs?
Now the bad news. Most antivirus programs do something like Webroot. However, in the other cases rather than flagging your site as dangerous, they mark them with a variety of grey symbols. Semantic Norton has a grey question mark, Kaspersky a grey K and so on.
By doing it this way, they give the benefit of the doubt and simply say “We don’t know either way” and leave it up to the searcher.
If you want to build trust with your clients who use those antivirus programs as their search programs, you need to get the grey bits turned to green. To get their green ticks of approval, you must jump through each of their individual hoops.
This is one of the most complex processes and involves uploading files to the backend of your site or a metatag inclusion. It is also as slow as a wet week. Their site says it takes about 2 weeks for the review process. I am still waiting over 6 weeks later!
Enter your website in the top right-hand box next to view site report.
Check out the category they have assigned you to as well as their assessment of your site.
If your site is in the wrong category, click on the grey button to request a review. Generally, these take less than 24 hours.
Enter your website URL in the main box and check your category. If you are unhappy, simply request a reclassification.
This one is a slightly different process. Enter your details to see if you have been blacklisted. If you have, you need to request a review of the false positive rating
This is similar to Bitdefender. Search your URL here https://search.f-secure.com/
Report false positives here https://www.f-secure.com/en/web/labs_global/submit-a-sample
How is your Russian? The reason I ask is that the only way to request a green K is by joining the Kaspersky forum and listing your site under a forum thread that is entirely in Russian. There is no equivalent English thread!
This saint of a company has put together clear details on how to do this:
Yes, you need to translate each page to hopefully get the right thread and ask the right thing. Reviews take 2-3 days.
Other Antivirus Programs Without Clear Instructions
Now comes the bad news. Many of the main antivirus players don’t provide any easy to find information about how to get your site ticked or reviewed. Any of these that offer safe searches could be red flagging your site, and you won’t know.
- Bullguard Internet Security Safe Browsing
- Avira Safe Search Plus
- Avast SafeZone
If you want to remove a potential obstacle to clients visiting your website, then spend a few hours going through and getting as many green ticks on your site as possible from these anti-virus providers.
It is not interesting work. It is not exciting work. But if it means that a stack of extra potential clients visit your site over a year because they haven’t been scared off by red warning labels, it is worth the effort!
I should mention, that we do this for all our clients who have us maintain their websites for them. It’s just one less thing they have to worry about!