McAfee Gobbles Up Web Ratings Security Startup

The anti-virus specialist has wasted no time snapping up SiteAdvisor, a startup that rates the Web to determine if a site's content includes spyware, spam, viruses, browser-based exploits or online scams.

Anti-virus security specialist McAfee has wasted no time gobbling up SiteAdvisor, a 1-year-old startup that rates the Web to determine if a sites content includes spyware, spam, viruses, browser-based exploits or online scams.

McAfee announced April 5 it is acquiring the tiny Boston-based company that counts respected anti-spyware activist Ben Edelman among its roster of backers.

Financial terms of the acquisition, which come just one month after the official launch of the SiteAdvisor browser plug-in service, were not released.

McAfee, of Santa Clara, Calif., did not say how it would integrate SiteAdvisor with its existing product suite, but a source close to the company said the plan is to leverage SiteAdvisors massive database of shady Web sites for use in consumer-facing and enterprise offerings.

"In addition to the consumer benefits, SiteAdvisor offers great potential for our enterprise solutions as well," said George Heron, vice president and chief scientist at McAfee.

"[This technology] adds another dimension of strength and value to McAfees threat databases and will offer a significant corporate benefit," he added.

For SiteAdvisor, which has received funding from Bessemer Venture Partners General Catalyst Partners, it is a swift exit in a market saturated by startups hawking security services.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read more about SiteAdvisors system for marking unsafe Web sites, click here.

The company uses automated crawlers to test every Web site on the Internet and a color-coded (red, yellow or green) system to flag potentially dangerous sites.

The idea is to have a browser plug-in serve as an alert on search engines if the user surfs to a site that may be hosting malware or exploits.

In March, SiteAdvisor said its service had placed a red "X" warning label on approximately 5 percent of all Web traffic and warned that there are 1 billion monthly visits to Web pages that arent safe for surfing.

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SiteAdvisor places a green checkmark on sites cleared as having no significant problems.

However, if a Web site tries to change the users browser defaults or send a lot of "non-spammy" e-mail, the service will take a use a yellow exclamation mark to caution users.

Web sites found hosting drive-by exploits, bundling adware or spyware with downloads or hammering inboxes with spam get the dreaded red warning "X."

The browser plug-in is available for Internet Explorer and Firefox users.

In a blog post announcing the deal with McAfee, SiteAdvisor CEO Chris Dixon sad the free features in the current software will remain free for existing and new users.

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