Tech

What It Means and How to Fix It


Error messages are a simple and convenient way to notify users that there is an issue with their device or software. You’ve probably encountered plenty of error messages over the years, but some are puzzling and difficult to bypass. Google’s “unusual traffic from your computer network” is one of them. So what is it? And what can you do about it?


What Is the “Unusual Traffic” Error Message?

This error message can occur in any browser or device. You’ll encounter it when you type a query into Google’s search box and hit search, or when you use the address bar to find what you’re looking for (if Google is set as your default search engine). It states:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. This page checks to see if it’s really you sending the requests, and not a robot.

When you get this error message, your IP (Internet Protocol) address is displayed below, and there’s also a timestamp showing when it occurred. To continue browsing, you need to solve the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) and verify that you are not a robot.

Solving a CAPTCHA every now and again is obviously not an issue in and of itself. But here’s the problem: more often than not, the error message will persist even if you solve the CAPTCHA. It will appear every time you try to use the Google search, making browsing incredibly difficult, and forcing you to use a different, and potentially less accurate search engine.

Why You’re Getting the “Unusual Traffic” Error Message

There are five possible reasons as to why you might be getting this annoying error message. Though most are benign, getting this prompt could also be a sign of a security breach. Here they are.

1. Googling Too Quickly

It’s possible that you are getting the “unusual traffic” message because you are simply too fast for Google, rapidly putting in different search terms. When you do this repeatedly for a prolonged period of time, Google might misinterpret your activity as that of a programmed bot.

2. Using Automated Software

You might get this error message if you’re using automated software of some kind. For example, a keyword research tool that scrapes queries people enter into Google’s search box, or similar software that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals rely on to do their jobs.

3. Sharing Your Network With Other People

You might get the “unusual traffic” error message when using a public Wi-Fi—because many other people are likely connected to the same network and searching Google, the software might flag the requests as automated. This can also happen when a number of people are using your home network at the same time.

4. Using a VPN

Browsing the web through Virtual Private Network (VPN) software, or using a proxy browser plugin of some kind, can sometimes result in Google showing you the “unusual traffic” error message and demanding you solve a CAPTCHA.

5. You’re Under Attack

When there’s an unusual issue with your internet connection or device that is refusing to go away, there’s always the possibility a threat actor or malware (that is, malicious software) are to blame.

How to Fix “Unusual Traffic From Your Computer Network”

Computer screen showing the google search bar

Now that you know what might be causing this error message to appear, it’s time to address the root cause. The good news is, you most likely have nothing to worry about. If you were searching too quickly or using a keyword research tool, you can solve the issue by clearing browser cache, history, and cookies.

If you’re on desktop, the easiest and quickest way to do this is to press Ctrl + Shift + Delete. Once you do that, a pop-up menu will appear. Here, you can select which items to clear. This will work in Chrome (and other Chromium-based browsers), Firefox, Safari, and Edge.

The process is somewhat more complicated on mobile devices, but practically identical on all browsers. To clear cache and cookies, you need to access the browser’s Settings menu, and navigate to Clear browsing data, or Clear History and Website Data.

If you suspect that a VPN, proxy, or other software on your device is to blame, simply disable them and see if the error message goes away. If that fails, try restarting your modem or router manually. Unplug it, wait for a few minutes, and then plug it back in. Alternatively, you can press the reset button on the back.

Now, here’s the bad news: if none of the above worked, your security might be compromised. This is definitely the case if you notice other signs of a malware infection or security compromise: lagging, overheating, system crashes, pop-up messages, advertisements, and so on.

Some malware is difficult to detect and works in the background, sending repeated requests and thus making your traffic seem automated or unusual to Google, which could explain the “unusual traffic” error message. But there are still ways to remove it. If you don’t have malware protection, download it immediately—there are plenty of free antivirus tools to choose between. Once you’ve installed anti-malware, scan your computer.

If you think your Android phone has malware, you should try removing it instead of immediately performing a factory reset, which would restore your smartphone back to its initial state.

It is highly unlikely that your iPhone is infected with malware, especially if it is not jailbroken, but you should still check iOS devices just in case.

With all that said, there is a small, but not insignificant chance that your entire network is compromised. If you suspect this to be the case, the first thing you should do is scan it for any potential issues. There are several ways to manually check if your network is secure, and protect it if it’s not.

Get Rid of the “Unusual Traffic” Error Once and for All

In most cases, Google’s “unusual traffic” error is nothing to worry about and can be bypassed. It is still be very annoying, however, so it’s good to know how to get rid of it when it pops up.

But whether you’re getting error messages or not, you’re only as safe as the network you’re connected to. Fortunately, even if you’re not great with computers, you can easily secure your home Wi-Fi in just a few minutes.

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