Monday, May 21, 2007

McAfee Site Advisor fits the philosophy of labeling

On my Windows XP Dell Inspiron laptop I have noticed recently that McAfee Site Advisor provides a bar with any site that I go to. Moreover, in Google, at least, search engine results are flagged with Site Advisor test results from the specific reference when those results are known.

The Site Advisor so far seems mainly concerned with harmful practices from a security point of view, such as management of email, invitation to link to known troublesome sites ("online affiliations"), download management, sign up forms, excessive popups or attempts to make a browser's favorite home page ("annoyances"), or scripting practices known to cause security problems.

The Advisor also invites users to make comments, including the site owner.

This does not appear on my other machine (Dell 8300), with XP Home. I believe that the difference comes from the fact that recently on the laptop McAfee recently pushed the most up-to-date version of McAfee Security Center. comes up with a green light. has not yet been checked. Only the main billboushka blog has been checked, and it is green.

The site evaluation does not appear to check for dead links, or links that don't match text. Links often become obsolete. I have also had difficulty with an older version of Word (2002) which, when converting to HTML, would sometimes scramble the links so that the link that the visitor got was actually one that proceeds the one indicated by the link. This seemed to be a bug in the XSL logic in building the HTML web page with XML programming. When this happened, I had to fix the page manually. Microsoft advises replacing Word with the latest version, as older versions are not supported.

There is a problem right now with an Access database of political arguments, that does not seem to work properly in IE 7.0. I am working on that. Right now, the SiteAdvisor does not appear to be concerned with scripts or applications under development that may fail for technical or connectivity or software compatibility reasobns. In the past, I had another site with a Java Starter, that I discontinued when the small ISP failed to continue supporting its JVM, leading to constant internal server errors. I am working on the idea of a more stable kind of application with SQL server for the future.

Microsoft has, for some time, offered to check sites for known phishing problems. Vista will improve the ability to check for problems.

The logical extension of all of this would be to check sites for content againt user supplied labels, as discussed earlier in this blog. Site advisors could also rate sites on the reliability of content, eventually.

Update: (May 22)

This morning McAfee advised me that Site Advisor (and SiteAdvisor Plus) are available for Mozilla Firefox (2.0). I installed and I get a similar report now from Mozilla on my XP Home machine (at both sites and on searches).

When one goes to a specific file on a site (with the same root URL), it appears that the SiteAdvisor rating for the entire site is given, but I am not absolutely sure about this.

Update: July 15, 2007

I've noticed that Google sometimes returns warnings from search results that a search result could harm a computer with "bad ware". This seems to be linked to the stopbadware site. Some reputable corporate media sites come back with this warning, so there may be some "false positives" and the stop site seems to have an appeal process. This seems to be another evolving service for home users that will need more fine-tuning.

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