SiteAdvisor is a free browser plug-in that tries to keep your PC clean of spyware by providing clear and visible warnings for sites known to be spyware carriers. It takes a decidedly different approach from traditional antispyware programs and antispam programs by alerting you before you start venturing into unsafe territory online. Created by a couple of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers, SiteAdvisor is currently available as a free browser plug-in that works with either Internet Explorer or Firefox (still in beta). A premium subscription-based version is in the works. To see SiteAdvisor in action, see our slide show here. SiteAdvisor won't eliminate the need to have good antispyware software running on your PC, but it can help you avoid outright a majority of the sites that are responsible for spreading spyware.
Installation of SiteAdvisor is simple and straightforward. When you follow the link provided by CNET Download.com, SiteAdvisor will detect whether you are using Internet Explorer or Firefox and offer the correct download for your chosen browser. (Support for other browsers is planned). Once you agree to the terms of service, the browser plug-in will download and install. You'll be prompted to restart your browser and upon relaunch, your browser will display a dialogue box explaining what SiteAdvisor is and asking for permission to enable it. Click Agree And Continue and SiteAdvisor will add a pull-down menu and a button to the browser's toolbar.
We found the SiteAdvisor interface to be intuitive and easy to use. The SiteAdvisor button on the toolbar will be green for safe sites, yellow for questionable ones and red for sites you should avoid. For more detailed information about a given site, just click SiteAdvisor's pull-down menu and select View Site Details to see a full report detailing any questionable downloads available, the amount of e-mail (spam) you're likely to get if you register with that site, the quality of the third-party sites it links to, and any user-submitted reviews. While SiteAdvisor does collect a list of Web sites you visit while using the app, the company says it does not log specific information about which users visited which sites. The URLs-visited list is primarily used to prioritise new pages for analysis.
Perhaps its handiest feature is that SiteAdvisor overlays its ratings atop the Google, Yahoo and MSN search result pages. Although we sometimes experienced a slight delay between a results page load and SiteAdvisor's colour-coded check mark and although not nearly enough sites have been rated, it's still much better to get some security information about an unknown site before you visit it.
The information reported by SiteAdvisor is clear and easy to understand, but if you do need assistance, the SiteAdvisor site offers a fair collection of common questions and answers organised by topic, as well as a pretty good basic overview FAQ. You can also e-mail SiteAdvisor with questions, although there is no guaranteed response time. No telephone support is available.