Google Chrome offers users a Safe Browsing feature that checks for malicious URLs before loading web pages, and the search giant is now giving it a major upgrade — a real-time, privacy-preserving link scanning engine that checks for an encrypted version of links , which a user visits through an independently managed server. While the company claims that the “standard” version of the browser’s Safe Browsing feature is much more effective at detecting threats, the “enhanced” version will be more effective against specific threats.

The company states in a blog post that it upgrades the standard version of the Safe Browsing feature with a real-time protection protocol that it claims is much more effective at protecting users from dangerous sites. Until now, the standard Safe Browsing mode checked for malicious websites from a list that was regularly downloaded to the user’s smartphone or computer – the upgrade will now allow Google to check for dangerous URLs via a third-party server.

Google says that when you visit a website, Chrome will check a locally stored list of websites for malicious URLs, following up with a real-time check if it’s not in the database. To do this, the browser hashes the URLs, shortens them to smaller prefixes, and encrypts them before sending them to a third-party privacy server operated by Fastly.

This third-party server will remove the potential user’s information, mixing the requests with those of other users, and send them to the safe browsing server. Google will then check the shortened prefixes against its server-side database – if a match is found, Google checks the full hash of the original URL against the dangerous hash of the URL and displays a warning if they match.

The upgraded “standard” safe browsing mode with real-time checks
Photo: Google

According to the company, one of the benefits of real-time, privacy-preserving safe browsing is that dangerous sites can be blocked as soon as they are detected. Another advantage of server-side scanning for malicious URLs is that the list of dangerous sites can be much larger than what is stored on the user’s device.

Upgrading to standard Safe Browsing mode is now available for users of Chrome for iOS and Chrome for Windows, macOS, and Linux PCs. Google says it will roll out to Android users in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, users who want even more AI-based protection against malicious URLs, as well as a Chrome extension and file scanning, can opt for the enhanced version of the Safe Browsing feature, according to the company.

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