(Last updated on January 9th, 2023)
In our everyday use of the internet, we surf through various websites. A lot of times, we stumble upon a malicious website, but due to the apparent harmlessness of the site, we can’t tell it apart from a safe website.
A bad website can be home to a variety of cyber threats, including adware and spyware. These websites can later spam you if you left an email address with them. Or they can plant cookies on your system to set up a permanent backdoor for hacking activities.
But this is where the McAfee WebAdvisor steps in.
WebAdvisor is a free product from McAfee that keeps you safe on the internet by notifying you about potentially harmful websites and downloadable items.
It’s a software plug-in that operates within your internet browser and offers safety advice about websites without impacting your browsing experience.
WebAdvisor tests websites for potentially malicious content, warn you against risky sites and assists you in finding secure alternatives as well.
WebAdvisor may also block a website that is associated with serious risk issues such as malware, phishing attacks, spyware, etc.
What is McAfee WebAdvisor & How it works?
WebAdvisor has an entire library of websites tested for safety by McAfee labs. They categorize the sites based on the security issues associated with them and summarize this information into a safety rating.
Whenever you use search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) to search websites, WebAdvisor displays the safety rating icon next to each search result so that you only go to the sites that are safe from malicious coding.
So, what WebAdvisor is essentially doing is keeping cyber threats at bay by keeping you informed about a website’s safety. This tool can keep you safe from threats as dangerous as cryptojacking.
Many tools warn you against a suspicious website after you have landed on it and already shared your IP address and possibly some additional information as well. But using WebAdvisor, you are aware of a potential threat even before getting to a website.
Furthermore, WebAdvisor automatically collects some information as you browse the internet. This information pertains to the following online activities:
- The websites that you visit
- Search engine queries
- Download history
- Newsletter subscriptions/ product registrations etc.
WebAdvisor monitors this information and uses it to line up future recommendations for you based on your online behavior.
How does McAfee WebAdvisor determine a website’s safety?
McAfee WebAdvisor measures a website’s safety by evaluating a wide selection of available data in the lab tests, including the following criteria:
- If a site offers newsletter subscriptions or downloadable content. These are downloaded on test computers and analyzed for viruses and any bundled spyware, adware, or other malicious programs.
- Registrations/ subscriptions are tested by completing forms using a onetime use email address and checked for volume and spam content in the subsequent emails.
- Websites are also examined for annoying activities like excessive popups, browser exploits, and other fraudulent practices.
- Sites are checked for similarities or associations with other already tested sites flagged as red (harmful). In the same way, a website’s affiliations are also inspected.
- These evaluations are combined with feedback and reviews about suspicious websites from McAfee users and experts before a site is finally categorized.
- Lastly, the ongoing automated testing procedures keep on updating the safety ratings based on the new information collected through constant web monitoring.
What kind of Safety Rings does WebAdvisor use?
WebAdvisor uses five different safety rating rings or icons classifying the websites by the risks associated with them. It also uses an icon for the sites that have not yet been tested.
- Green Icon: This icon means that the site has been tested and found to have little or no viruses and is deemed safe for use by McAfee.
- McAfee Secure Icon: A site with this icon is daily monitored and certified through McAfee Security Tests helping to prevent cyber threats, including identity theft, spyware, viruses, etc. This icon also lists the date the site was last certified.
- Yellow Icon: The site has been tested and found to contain some risk elements. Caution is required while navigating the site and interacting with its content. It is recommended to read the WebAdvisor report first if it’s necessary to use this website. However, if another source can provide the same information as this site, it’s better to avoid using it.
- Red (or blocked) Icon: The site has been tested and categorized to have serious risks associated with it. It is recommended not to use the website and the access to it will be blocked if you’re on a CCC workstation.
- Question Mark Icon: This website has not yet been tested, so its safety cannot be verified. It is advised to use caution when using unknown sites. If the same information is available on an alternative source, it’s better to opt for that.
More detailed information about the safety ratings and WebAdvisor report is accessible through the McAfee icon on your browser’s toolbar. You can read these reports to know about the type of risks associated with the tested sites.
If you think that a site has been wrongly rated, you can report about it to your local IT support.
What other Features does McAfee WebAdvisor offer?
In addition to website safety recommendations, McAfee WebAdvisor also offers the following additional features:
- Misclick Protection – This feature protects you against malware and phishing sites and blocks a malicious link if you accidentally click on it.
- Typo Protection – Generates recommendations for a correct website address if you mistype a URL.
- Safer Downloads – This feature scans your downloads and alerts you if it finds that they contain some harmful components.
- Security Check – This feature makes sure you’re well protected before going online by checking if your firewall and anti-virus are active.
Anas Baig is a consumer privacy advocate and cybersecurity journalist by profession. Has has more than 7 years of professional experience under his belt. Anas has been featured on numerous media publications including The Guardian, Lifehacker, The Next Web, Infosecurity Magazine, Security Boulevard, Hacker Noon, CMS Wire, IAPP, SC Magazine, and many others. His interest includes Digital Privacy Rights, Information Security, Networking, Privacy, and Data Protection.