Does Mcafees Siteadvisor Affect your Business?

By: Alexander Rodichev

The purpose of McAfee's SiteAdvisor is by all means respectable: the site aims to warn users about malware, phishing and other scams when they are surfing the Web, downloading software or obtaining services from the Internet. In fact, the service became so popular that the site was named the best in the Web Defense category by the Time Magazine in 2005.

SiteAdvisor uses automatic analysis tools to detect potentially harmful content, such as browser exploits or downloads that contain spyware or viruses. Being in a 'dangerous' neighborhood, which simply means that the analyzed site links to Web sites that are considered a threat, also affects safety ratings. In addition, user feedback is also used to evaluate concerns that general Internet public might have with the site, including things as broad as 'bad shopping experience'.

Considering great popularity and influence of SiteAdvisor, the service tends to become, in a way, a Better Business Bureau of the Internet, providing safety and reliability reports on Web sites. SiteAdvisor definitely has potential to turn visitors away from the sites that are, in SiteAdvisor's opinion, doing bad things, and approve business of sites that pass its safety checks.

Major difference between BBB and SiteAdvisor is that a Web site does not have to be a member of SiteAdvisor in order to qualify for its services. Instead, SiteAdvisor rates, or tries to rate, all Web sites to which it has access. By doing this, McAfee has influence on businesses who's Web sites are rated. While a good rating may add credibility to a Web site, a bad one turns away potential clients of businesses marked as unsafe.

While the intent of the McAfee's service is great, its implementation may not be perfect. There were reports in the past that McAfee abused SiteAdvisor's ratings to hit competition by assigning artificially low safety ratings to Web sites making competing anti-virus and anti-spyware products, such as Lavasoft.de, manufacturer of AdAware, coffeecup.com, or spamhuntress.com. This is not the case with those Web sites at the moment, but it remains unknown why the sites were red-flagged and what forced McAfee to remove the low safety ratings.

SiteAdvisor is a very powerful tool that should not be misused. Unfortunately, at the moment of writing, the mechanisms used by the service to assign negative safety ratings lack any transparency and are questionable at best. Sites can be red-flagged for having a link to a site that has, or receives later, a negative rating from SiteAdvisor. Businesses can be flagged for 'bad shopping experience' by just one or two Internet users who, for whatever reason, did not like the site, its products, or its owners. In addition, sites can be marked as threats by unanimous 'experts' who might just claim that, as quoted from the SmartPCTools Web site, "the solution: is not strong enough".

Would you trust anonymous experts and imperfect technical measures to affect your business decisions? Well, it seems that now you have no choice: whether you want it or not, your online business gets a boost or disapproval from a company that employs those experts and evaluations.

McAfee makes money rating your business. Does that affect you?

Having your business depend on an opinion of an unrelated third party is no good news. Does a McAfee SiteAdvisor rating affect your business? Check your safety rating now at www.siteadvisor.com. If your business received a red flag for no apparent reason, learn what others think about McAfee and its business practices at www.smartpctools.com/truth

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