What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?

What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?
What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?

Australia's second largest real estate listings website, Domain.com.au, was out of action yesterday. The error concerned real estate agents, who were not alerted directly that there are any issues with the site, while thousands of vendors are undoubtedly hoping it won't happen again, particularly with a big weekend of auctions ahead.

When those on Google Chrome and some other browsers attempted to access the page, they were left with the following image. Following some links from stories on The Age caused the same result.

 What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?

Those who clicked 'Why was this page blocked?' were taken to the advisory 'Diagnostic page' below.

What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday? 

Yesterday evening, with the website still down, Property Observer was told that the team at Domain were working hard to rectify the issue and that Google had been contacted.

Those who Googled for Domain were warned by the search engine that "this site may harm your computer."

It appears that mobile website and apps remained unaffected throughout the period, and some users were still able to get through different browsers other than Chrome.

Domain's chief operating officer Tony Blamey said that the outage occurred from midday 21st May, when the website had been flagged by a central database as being a potential risk, possibly containing malware.

"This database is used by several browsers, including Chrome, Safari and Firefox, to help protect their respective user base. Domain was flagged by the database when Google's crawlers identified potential malware risks on certain webpages on Domain. These risks were in fact web pages that were serving third-party ad units that came through display advertising channels and contained suspicious websites as the target destination of these ad units. The issue is now resolved as of approximately 9:20 this morning, Thursday 22nd May," he said.

"Domain removed the suspicious ad units within an hour of being notified of the issue. We then spent approximately 17 hours attempting to rectify the incorrect warning that was appearing to our audience on the Domain website. We worked very closely with Google both locally and in the US to resolve the matter and to be cleared of any potential risk to browsers of the Domain website. This was confirmed early this morning and the Domain website is now up and running again across all web browsers. The issue was limited to Chrome, Firefox and Safari and fortunately did not impact the Domain Mobile Applications, Mobile Site or anyone using Internet Explorer.

"We are obviously pleased that this matter is now resolved and are now focusing on ways to ensure that this does not occur again and will revisit the internal processes that are followed in allowing third party ad providers to run ad units through our ad serving platforms. We will also be working closely with our ad-serving technology partner to explore ways to prevent suspicious ads being served onto any website and rather that they are stopped on their end."

Observer and Richardson & Wrench Mosman and NEUTRAL BAY director, Robert Simeon, told Property Observer that he had not been notified about the outage when it had happened, despite being one of many real estate agents advertising on the site.

"We have had absolutely no direct contact from Fairfax Media advising that their property portal has been down for approximately 24 hours. There has been absolutely no communication as to what the problem is or any explanation as to when they believe this will be rectified," Simeon said when the site was still down.

"Given that this portal charges users to advertise on their portal the compensation issues will be very interesting given all they offer of late is a blank screen warning users that their site is infected and together with a strong warning not to proceed."

Simeon's accountant noted that the Fairfax Digital bill for their agency equates to around $1,800 per week, or $260 per day.

Suggesting that "dodgy ads" might be behind the malware warning, posters in online forums such as Whirlpool were on the money.

Domain alerted users on Twitter yesterday.

What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?

While others took to the same platform to post their confusion up until the early hours of today.

What happened with Domain.com.au yesterday?

On the Google Chrome forum, a Google Product expert responded to a concerned posted with the following reply.

"You are seeing this alert because Google Chrome warns you if the site you're trying to visit is suspected of phishing or malware, using Google’s Safe Browsing technology. In your case specifically, Chrome is notifying you that the site you're trying to visit may install malware on your computer."

Property Observer notes that vendors and agents will be relieved that the site does appear to be up and running again.

Update: Domain has sent out email confirmation that browser issues have been resolved. They noted the following:

On Wednesday 21 May, a small group of Domain users received a warning because a third-party banner advertisement on the website was identified as containing malware.

The product and technical team at Domain.com.au sought to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, minimising any potential impact on site visitors and users. Within an hour, the third-party display advertising on the site was removed and a request for the site to be scanned again was lodged with Google.

Domain.com.au was subsequently scanned and confirmed not to pose any risks to browsers. All browser issues have been resolved.

Domain.com.au is reviewing its policy in relation to hosting third-party materials to prevent this occurrence in the future.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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