McAfee SiteAdvisor Offers Good Advice

McAfee's SiteAdvisor (available in Firefox and Internet Explorer versions) has always alerted you when Web search results list potentially risky sites. The latest version, with a new feature called Secure Search, is designed to make searching the Web even safer. But to do that, it places some restrictions on your surfing-and those restrictions may be too severe for some users.

The update SiteAdvisor plug-in acts much like the older versions did: It puts colored icons next to your search results so you know the status of the site before you click on the link. Sites that are considered safe get a small green icon, sites that may be unsafe are labeled with a yellow icon to indicate caution, and sites known to be risky are marked with a red label. McAfee tests the sites for spyware, drive-by downloads, spam, scams, phishing, and other risks to determine their security rating.

SiteAdvisor's new feature adds a Secure Search box to your browser toolbar. Its settings allow you to customize the results that you see from the searches you conduct with it. You can choose to block any red sites from your search results, and can have SiteAdvisor show alerts only for potentially harmful sites. The Secure Search box only works with Yahoo's search engine; it also can be installed as a part of a customizable McAfee/Yahoo toolbar. (SiteAdvisor's ties with Yahoo don't end there: When you install the app, it asks you if you want to change your browser's default search provider to Yahoo--and the default selection is yes.)

You can still use SiteAdvisor when you search with other search engines--like Google--but you lose the ability to customize your search results. Still, omitting some of your search results isn't for everyone, anyway. While it may be a good idea to block risky sites from your children or some novice computer users, other Web surfers will want to see all their search results, and have the option of deciding for themselves which sites they'd like to visit. (You can set a list of approved sites that will always appear in search results, even if they're labeled risky. But you may not know these sites exist unless you can find them in your search results.)

In addition to the green, yellow, and red icons that appear next to your search results, McAfee now labels some sites as "McAfee SECURE." This means they have been more thoroughly tested and are branded as safe shopping destinations. The updated version of SiteAdvisor lets you see whether the site you're visiting is "McAfee SECURE," too-not just when it appears in your search results. A small icon in your browser toolbar changes its text from "McAfee SiteAdvisor" to "McAfee SECURE" when a site meets that criteria.

If you choose to stick with Google for searching, SiteAdvisor's new Secure Search feature will have little benefit for you. But you will still have access to SiteAdvisor's excellent site ratings-and you'll have the ability to decide which sites you'd like to visit, risky or not. Whether or not you choose to use the Secure Search bar, SiteAdvisor is worth installing.

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