McAfee sets e-commerce boost for SiteAdvisor

Software to offer safety ratings of inappropriate Web sites.

McAfee plans enhancements to its recently acquired SiteAdvisor software, which lets the Web-rating application block inappropriate Web sites, offer safety ratings for online transactions and rate Web links that appear in e-mail and instant message windows.

The features are expected to be added to SiteAdvisor over the next year, starting a "protected safe search" capability that will let parents and systems administrators block users from visiting Web sites, depending on their SiteAdvisor rating, says Bill Kerrigan, the executive vice president of McAfee's consumer group.

McAfee is also working on new e-commerce rating features, as well as combining SiteAdvisor with its existing antiphishing and antispam products and services, Kerrigan says.

"We have antiphishing technologies today that try to assure that you don't connect to a site that's imitating a legitimate business," he says. "We can now combine the McAfee content with the SiteAdvisor database and make that a much more powerful solution."

In April, McAfee paid more than $70 million for SiteAdvisor, a remarkable sum for a 14-person company that had just released its first product, a free browser plug-in. But McAfee says SiteAdvisor will be a key point of differentiation from competitors Symantec and Microsoft.

The SiteAdvisor product is compelling to McAfee, the company says, because it focuses on something that most security software isn't doing: helping users "make better decisions about how they use risky areas of the 'Net," said Christopher Bolin, McAfee's CTO, speaking at the company's financial analyst conference this week.

"When I saw it I realized this was the next generation of consumer security offerings and had applications way outside of the consumer security space," Bolin says.

SiteAdvisor works with Web browsers to warn people when they are about to visit a site that's been associated with spam, spyware or computer viruses. The company has built a database of Web-site ratings, combined from millions of automated visits.

The company had planned to release a premium version of SiteAdvisor in September, but that target has now been pushed back to year's end because of the acquisition.

McAfee is still figuring out whether it will sell the enhanced features as part of a premium version of SiteAdvisor or as options to its suite of security products, Kerrigan says.

Within the next few months, McAfee expects to deliver four suites of its next-generation security platform, code-named Falcon, all of which will include SiteAdvisor.

These products will range in price from $39.99 for the entry-level McAfee VirusScan Plus product to $99 for a multiuser version of the high-end McAfee Total Protection suite, Kerrigan says. Like Microsoft, McAfee also plans to offer versions of its products that can be used by as many as three users, a package that is designed to make license management much easier for home users.

McAfee has no plans to discontinue the free version of SiteAdvisor, which has been available since early March.

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