McAfee Site Advisor – A must have tool
In the big and sometimes scary world of the internet, it can become overwhelming knowing where to navigate and what websites you can trust.
What is McAfee Site Advisor?
When navigating the internet often the same questions pops into our head – if I share my email with this site will it spam me? Is it safe to download a file from this site? If I click this search result link will I be bombarded with an onslaught of pop-ups?
You probably ask yourself these questions and think that you have no way to know unless you do it. This can cause you a whole stream of problems, with the number one delivery for malware being email, something as simple as signing up to a newsletter from what seems like a legitimate site can cause irreparable damage to your laptop or another device.
The McAfee site advisor takes out some of the unknown, meaning you don’t have to ask these types of questions. The extension that can be used on both IE and Firefox gives a site a good or bad rating from a wealth of data it has collected.
What are the different site ratings?
Whilst searching online there are 5 different icons you may see appear next to a search result. These indicate variations in the safety of a site and are as follows:
Green – This lets you know that a site has been tested and there is a low risk or no risk at all. There are no issues with adware, malware, downloads or spam or any of the other issues McAfee tests for. You can click on this link, and there will be no intervention from the plugin.
Secure Sites – These will have the McAfee Shield shown next to them. These sites are certified daily and are mainly sites with high volumes of traffic. McAfee will show you the last time the site was tested, and you can know that it is completely safe.
Yellow – Site with the yellow icon next to them have been tested and have some minor risks associated with them. This does not necessarily need to deter you from entering the site, but you should proceed with caution. From the plugin tool bar, you can read the full report and establish what the issues are, so you know what to avoid and can assess if it is worth the risk of entering.
Red – Any site that is red is blocked. McAfee will stop you entering in order to keep yourself and your PC safe. These sites have been tested and found to have major risks.
Grey – This indicates an unknown site. It has not been tested by McAfee, so they cannot assess whether you should enter or not. Proceed with caution on any unknown sites, if possible it will always be better to use an alternative safe site to get the information you need. McAfee regularly index, and test sites and you can also request that they test certain site and it will be added to the list for site testing, so you may be able to return at a later date, and the icon will have changed colour.
You should always keep in mind when surfing that sites are constantly changing, and even large and seemingly secure sites can be hacked. You may see a well-known site with a red icon and think that is not right, but warnings are regularly updated so always go on the side of caution and return at a later time to see if the icon has been updated.
If you want to see a full report to understand why a site has been given the rating, it has you can simply click on the icon and a small window will pop up presenting the main facts. There will also be linked text that says ‘Read Full Site Report’ which you can click to get an even deeper insight.
If you are wanting to visit a site directly but are concerned about its safety rating, you can also go to the site advisor website to view full site reports by entering URLs.
How does it make its analysis?
Thousands of computers at McAfee’s headquarters are constantly crawling sites. Although they do not crawl to the extent that search engines such as Google do (you would need an immense operation for this sort of scale) they do take a sample of each site they come across and look for any issues. According to McAfee, they have indexed 90% of Worldwide Web Traffic, meaning almost any site you would want to visit will have a rating.
McAfee then keeps a massive database of all the sites they have indexed to be analysed. From this information, an algorithm decides if the site is green, yellow or red.
What factors are incorporated into ratings?
The crawlers take into account a number of factors when deciding how to rate a site. They look for things like how many pops are displayed on a site. This is a big one for most people, with 70% of American’s being annoyed by irrelevant pop-up ads and pops being the number 1 reason people would block sites. Clicking on a site and 10 different pop-ups appearing with headlines like ‘You’ve just won an iPhone X!’ is infuriating. It takes a lot of time to close them all down and you often then feel the need to do a virus scan in case the popups triggered a download.
Another major thing McAfee check for is spam emails. They use unique email addresses for each web form that is filled out and monitor how much mail each inbox receives over the next week. If the inbox is bombarded with spam, it will then be given a bad rating and can save you the annoyance of having to clear out your spam folder every day.
Checking for malware is another important factor McAfee takes into account. They download and install any programmes available on the site and then check it for any malicious software. Being able to trust that what you are downloading is exactly what was advertised is crucial in keeping yourself safe online.
The security of linked-to sites is also reported on. Some sites that appear legitimate are that way so they can then lure you in to click on links that lead to unsafe sites that will steal information or deliver malware to your PC. The live status display will let you see the 8 most linked to sites on the site you want to visit and you can see if those are safe and legitimate.
Protected mode – This mode allows you to set a password that has to be inputted for dangerous sites. This is especially helpful if you have a family with young children. You can keep your children safe on the web even when you’re not there to look over their shoulders. Children get curious, and as such as we would want to trust them not to go on sites marked as dangerous, this feature can ensure that they don’t.
IM link warning – You can get site rankings over IM
Safe Share – shorten and share links easily on your social media platforms.
Regular upgrades – McAfee knows that the internet is constantly changing and new virus and scams are being concocted all the time, so they are constantly releasing upgrades to the software to ensure it doesn’t fall behind.
What are the advantages of using a site advisor?
Being alerted to the fact that a site may try to steal your identity or personal information or try to send you malicious software means you can search the web without worry. The colour coded rating system and the fact that is compatible with major browsers and search engines means it’s incredibly easy to use as well.
Having an additional layer of security, showing you information about a site before you even click on it allows you to make a proper assessment on whether or not you actually want to visit a site.
The site advisor integrates onto social media as well. Now you can know if that link your friend posted is legitimate or will just end up with you sending loads of spammy messages to your contact list.
Once you have the site advisor installed, any time your browser starts a download McAfee will scan it first to ensure it’s safe before it is saved onto your device. This can save you from fake sites, impersonating legitimate companies and software or from automatic downloads that some pages trigger.
Confidence in the sites you visit
Surfing the internet often feels like navigating through a minefield. Google alone processes over 3.5 billion searches a day, figuring out what websites listed in these results you can trust have become a tiresome chore for many over the years.
Threats like spyware, malware, and identity theft have become very real and ever pressing issues over the years since the internet has become mainstream. By using the site advisor, you are warned which sites are dangerous and stay protected from dodgy and illegitimate sites.
It’s not just Google that site advisor is compatible with, it works with all the major search engines, including:
- Excite Japan
- MSN Live
Site Advisor is not only compatible with all major search engines but will all major operating systems as well.
Operating systems site advisor is compatible with:
- Windows 8
- Windows 7
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Supported browsers:
- Internet Explorer
- Live Webmail
- Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010 and Express
- Yahoo Messenger
- Microsoft Live Messenger
For the most part in this article we have talked about its applications for personal use, but there are also many ways Site Advisor can help with your business.
If you have a business with multiple employees having a site advisor can be preferable to your IT team simply blocking access to sites. Site Advisor can allow your team to freely surf the web whilst also being informed about any sites they visit, drastically reducing and security risks. 48% of companies blame their major security risks on employees. By clicking on a dangerous download link of inputting personal information onto web forms employees can unwittingly allow a massive data breach or cause an attack on your company network. By having a site advisor in place, you can make sure your employees are accessing the internet safely.
With four stars on the Google web store and a big security name like McAfee, I was expecting something good, and I wasn’t disappointed. The plugin is completely free, so there is no excuse to at least give it a try.
This a proactive tool. Most online security efforts out there aim to help you clean up once the mess has been made. Site Advisor aims to ensure that the mess never even occur. By being proactive, you can save yourself a lot of time and money and traverse the internet with a weight off your shoulders.
By becoming familiar with the rating system, you can protect yourself from entering malicious sites and save a lot of hassle from having to get your PC fixed after downloading a virus or other malicious software.
The easy to use interface. This is a great tool to have on any of your PC’s. It will help you keep all your personal information safe and save you from annoying emails. If you have a family, it can also make sure your children don’t access unsafe parts of the internet. At a young age, it can be hard for children to be attuned to what sites are safe or not, but this simplistic traffic light display will help them learn internet safety. Once installed this will be a tool you use every day and will be one of your ‘must-have’ browser plugins for years to come.