More Tools To Protect
You on the Internet
I have written many times about the dark side
of the Internet: those sites that bring you scams, unwanted
pornography, spyware, and pop-up ads, among other problems.
To be sure, the Internet provides some wonderful benefits as
well. However, today, I want to provide you and your family
with tools to help protect you from the evils of the Internet.
You may have tried security software to block
unwanted drug and sex ads or false advertising on fantastic
stock picks and low interest loans. Even if you tried security
software to block these problems, the software often does not
help you identify problem websites. Of course, your best response
is always to delete the advertising e-mails without reading
them, avoid unfamiliar websites, or ignore the pop-up ads because
you never know if the innocent-looking e-mail or its link, website,
or ad may end up giving your computer a virus, corrupting your
computer data, or even taking over your computer.
Would you like to know in advance if a website
contains harmful software, a scam, unwanted pornography or unwanted
pop-ups? Walter S. Mossberg, in his “Personal Technology”
column in the Wall Street Journal, recently featured two free
services that provide such advance notice. His article certainly
caught my attention and I decided I should share the information
The two services are “SiteAdvisor”
and “Scandoo.” Both work on Windows and Macintosh
computers and were created by security firms.
SiteAdvisor works through a software plug-in
that you can download and install from www.siteadvisor.com.
The plug-in modifies your web browser so that it can identify
problem websites. Every time you consider using a new site,
it will notify you whether it tested the site and determined
that: 1) it’s “safe,” 2) requires “caution”
because it contains some potential security issues, or 3) it
needs to give you a “warning” because the site has
serious issues like it wants to send you lots of spam e-mails
or unwanted adware. The software even uses color to code sites
by using green for safe, yellow for caution, and red for warning.
Scandoo, available at www.scandoo.com,
does not require you to download any software. However, Scandoo
requires you to enter a search term at its website rather than
at your homepage or through the search box of a search engine
such as Google. Scandoo will then transfer you to your favorite
search engine and change the “results page” to indicate
whether or not the site may cause a problem. However, be aware
that the site currently only works with the Google or MSN search
Walter Mossberg performed tests on both sites
and notices some differences. He found that SiteAdvisor consistently
flagged more websites as being problematic than did Scandoo.
He believes this may be caused in part because SiteAdvisor is
not only looking for viruses and spyware, but it is also looking
for sites that may bring you unwanted spam e-mails or pop-up
ads. On the other hand, Scandoo allows you to filter websites
by allowing you to specify which kinds of content you want to
flag, including hate speech, gambling sites, and sexually oriented
matter. I am trying both services and I will report my experiences
to you in a later column.