Many dangers threaten us on the Internet - even when we're just browsing the Web. McAfee's SiteAdvisor Plus, the fee-based sibling of the security software firm's free Site Advisor product, and Symantec's Norton Confidential, focus on protecting users as they interact with websites. Both apps work only with Internet Explorer 6 and later.
We tested final versions of Norton Confidential and SiteAdvisor Plus. Both products use a colour-coded safety rating system to categorise websites you visit. As you surf, Norton Confidential places a large, oval indicator - green for good, and red for bad - within a browser-wide toolbar. SiteAdvisor's tiny toolbar does the same for good and bad, and also adds two colours: yellow for a questionable site, grey for an unknown one.
SiteAdvisor Plus - like its free, and Firefox-compatible, counterpart (www.siteadvisor.com) - cross-checks sites against an extensive database of URLs that McAfee has previously tested for adware, spyware, viruses, phishing and even spam. The primary reason to pay for SiteAdvisor Plus is to get its Protected Mode, which keeps users from visiting sites coded red or yellow. Because yellow sites are only suspected of being dangerous, possibly as a result of unverified user comments, blocking them en masse seems a bit draconian. We would prefer it if the program let you limit the blocking to red websites only. Where SiteAdvisor's Protected Mode will guard you against sites suspected of distributing adware and spyware, Symantec's Norton Confidential won't.
That's because Norton Confidential focuses on blocking phishing sites that try to steal sensitive personal information. It checks sites against previously conducted research; analyses unknown sites in real-time; and watches for screen capturing, keylogging, and data mining.
In informal tests, both SiteAdvisor and Norton Confidential successfully blocked PhishTank.com's list of verified phishing websites. But whereas McAfee's blanket blocking flagged everything equally, Norton's messaging differentiated between known bad sites and suspected ones; you can choose to visit the latter group if you wish.
If you currently use either McAfee's or Symantec's Internet security suite, we suggest skipping both of these one-trick ponies, due to the way they overlap in protection. But if users are looking for a discreet antiphishing tool to protect them while banking or buying online, Norton Confidential wins our vote despite its high price. SiteAdvisor Plus's blocking is less sophisticated, and the informational benefits of SiteAdvisor are available in the free product.