Deciding Who To Trust, The SiteAdvisor Idea
Much of the spyware problem results from users visiting sites that turn out to be untrustworthy or simply malevolent. I'm certainly not inclined to blame the victimized users -- it's hardly their fault that sites run security exploits, offer undisclosed advertising software, or show tricky EULAs that are dozens of pages long. But the resulting software ultimately ends up on users' computers because users browsed to sites that didn't pan out.
How to fix this problem? In theory, it seems easy enough. First, someone needs to examine popular web sites, to figure out which are untrustworthy. Then users' computers need to automatically notify them -- warn them! -- before users reach untrustworthy sites. These aren't new ideas. Indeed, half a dozen vendors have tried such strategies in the past. But for various reasons, their efforts never solved the problem. (Details below).
This month, a new company is announcing a system to protect users from untrustworthy web sites: SiteAdvisor. They've designed a set of robots -- automated web crawlers, virtual machines, and databases -- that have browsed hundreds of thousands of web sites. They've tracked which sites install spyware -- what files installed, what registry changes, what network traffic. And they've built a browser plug-in that provides automated notification of worrisome sites -- handy red balloons when users stray into risky areas, along with annotations on search result pages at leading search engines. Deciding Who To Trust
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