McAfee SiteAdvisor

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McAfee SiteAdvisor
McAfee SiteAdvisor Logo.png
McAfee SiteAdvisor Website.png
The McAfee SiteAdvisor Website showing the review for Wikipedia
Initial releaseApril 2006
Operating systemCross-platform archive

The McAfee SiteAdvisor, later renamed as the McAfee WebAdvisor, is a service that reports on the safety of web sites by crawling the web and testing the sites it finds for malware and spam. The service was originally developed by SiteAdvisor, Inc, an MIT startup[1] first introduced at CodeCon on February 10, 2006,[2] and later acquired by McAfee[3] on April 5, 2006. Since its founding, it has received criticism for its improper rating of some sites, and more importantly the length of time it takes to resolve complaints. It is badly known for hijacking user's browser and changing default search engines and messing up the browser.


Prior to mid-October 2014, the functionality of SiteAdvisor could be accessed by submitting a URL to the website at, but can now also be accessed through a downloadable Browser Plugin.[4][citation needed]

Sites are rated in levels of Safe (green tick), Suspicious (yellow exclamation mark) and Unsafe (red "X").

SiteAdvisor LIVE[edit]

A paid version of McAfee SiteAdvisor, McAfee SiteAdvisor LIVE, is included in McAfee Total Protection and has extra features:

  • Download Protection - SiteAdvisor LIVE allows the consumer to adjust how aggressively SiteAdvisor scans downloads. This can stop downloads which are considered to be slightly, probably or possibly risky depending on setting determined by the user. This feature can also be turned off.
  • Protected Mode - Allows the user to set a password for SiteAdvisor to prevent users from accessing or downloading from Yellow and Red rated websites. This password will also be required to change any SiteAdvisor settings after Protected Mode has been enabled.

In addition to selling to the end consumers, McAfee also sells to the web site owners with their McAfee Secure program. --

Total Exposure[edit]

As of Dec 2010, McAfee Secure marketing materials say there are 350 million installs of McAfee SiteAdvisor, and a likely much larger viewer base with search engine agreements such as that with Yahoo.

Extra features of McAfee SiteAdvisor[edit]

  • Rates email and IM links
  • Indicates sites potentially harmful to your computer
  • Allows users to safely shorten URLs when sharing links
  • Alerts users to possible phishing and identity theft scams
  • Redirects you away from red and yellow sites (if Protected Mode is enabled).


False positives[edit]

SiteAdvisor has received criticism for incorrectly flagging websites with a caution or warning label.[5][6][7]

False negatives[edit]

The very nature of SiteAdvisor and the long periods between site crawls mean that even if the SiteAdvisor tests were 100% accurate a Green rating offers no guarantee of safety. Malicious code and browser exploits often spread fast over large numbers of websites,[8] meaning a Green rating may not be up to date and may provide a false sense of security.

Communication and accountability[edit]

In the event of a positive result website owners are not contacted. Although a dispute resolution service does exist, the final decision rests with McAfee.[9] In the event that a perceived threat is removed from a site the site's rating will return to Green as the data ages. Depending on the nature of the threat this process can take from 10 days to a year after the site is re-crawled, no strict timetable is provided.[10]

Yahoo, who uses the McAfee SiteAdvisor rating in their search results, does not get the rating change for another 4 weeks. It is unclear if rating changes in either direction take this long, or only corrections (RED to GREEN). Yellow is rarely, if ever, used.

The software design makes it difficult to turn SiteAdvisor off and McAfee keeps changing the method of doing so. The program reinstalls if a customer updates McAfee's Total Protection package.

McAfee Secure[edit]

This program 'certifies' a web site so that it can show the McAfee certified logo, and also get a GREEN rating beside search results (according to their marketing materials).

Messing up with search engines[edit]

This program well known for messing up with user's browser search engine settings by keep on changing it to Yahoo. Lot of people expressed anger and discomfort over this process of interfering with user's browser. Unfortunately this issue exists even in latest version.


McAfee SiteAdvisor now makes use of the TrustedSource website reputation organisation, to act as something like a 'cloud' intelligence software to get the most up-to-date information on websites as possible, very similar to McAfee's Active Protection (Artemis) system.[citation needed] The details of this system are not known.


  • Time magazine named among the 50 coolest websites of 2006.[11]
  • Popular Science awarded SiteAdvisor the "Best of What's New" award in the Computing category for 2006.[12]
  • PC World ranked SiteAdvisor at #15 in "The 100 Best Products of 2007."[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "McAfee acquires MIT startup SiteAdvisor at Digital..."
  2. ^ "CodeCon 2006 Program". Archived from the original on 2008-04-30.
  3. ^ Dixon, Chris (2006-09-05). "Taking SiteAdvisor to the Next Level". Archived from the original on 2006-05-23. Retrieved 2006-09-05.
  4. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine from Oct 12, 2014 shows "View Report Now" option". Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Cite uses generic title (help)
  5. ^ "Malware Advisor". Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  6. ^ "McAfee SiteAdvisor gives yellow warning rating". Archived from the original on 2008-02-17. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  7. ^ "Have you been slandered or defamed by McAfee SiteAdvisor?". Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  8. ^ "PC-pwning infection hits 30,000 legit websites". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  9. ^ "What is the process for disputing my site's rating?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  10. ^ "How long does it take for my site rating to change? Can I ask to be re-tested more quickly?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  11. ^ "SiteAdvisor's entry in Time's 50 coolest websites of 2005". 2006-08-03. Retrieved 2006-10-13.
  12. ^ "SiteAdvisor's entry in Popular Science's Best of What's New 2006". Retrieved 2007-04-20.
  13. ^ "PC World's list of "The 100 Best Products of 2007"". Retrieved 2007-05-23.

External links[edit]