SiteAdvisor Launches Trial Version of Innovative Web Safety Tool After Testing 95% of Web

Surfers Make 1 Billion Monthly Visits to “Red” Sites, but which Sites are Red?

BOSTON, March 1, 2006 – SiteAdvisor Inc., a consumer software company pioneering a new approach to Web safety by testing every site on the Internet, today announced the launch of a free trial version of its innovative Web safety software following a 3 month “Preview” period.

SiteAdvisor’s software for Internet Explorer and Firefox uses an easy-to-understand red, yellow, and green rating system to help Internet users stay safe as they search, browse and transact online. Among the many security threats and nuisances which SiteAdvisor’s ratings disclose and help prevent are spyware, spam, viruses, browser-based attacks such as exploits, and online scams.

SiteAdvisor’s test results reveal that the Web can be extremely dangerous if consumers don’t have a way to know which sites are safe or not. The company’s comprehensive testing of the Web over the last 11 months resulted in:

  • “Red” warning ratings for sites representing more than 5% of Web traffic
  • “Yellow” cautionary ratings for sites representing more than 2% of Web traffic

Many popular Web categories have a much higher percentage of red and yellow sites. For example, SiteAdvisor’s software reveals that on the first page of Google search results for “screensavers,” 10 of the 18 sites shown have “red” ratings. “Every month, worldwide Web users make more than 1 billion visits to ‘red’ sites, resulting in countless spyware infections, spam-filled inboxes and hijacked browsers,” noted Tom Pinckney, co-founder and VP Engineering. “We shed light on which sites are red so users can make better decisions about where they go and what they do online.”

SiteAdvisor’s safety ratings are grounded in a massive proprietary database containing test results from millions of automated Web site visits, download installations, and e-mail registrations. New sites are tested daily and previously tested sites are re-tested often. SiteAdvisor’s automated test coverage includes:

  • Web sites representing more than 95% of Web traffic
  • More than 475,000 downloads analyzed for adware, spyware, and viruses
  • More than 1.3 million registration forms using unique e-mail addresses so all subsequent e-mail from each source can be tracked

SiteAdvisor’s automated tests are supplemented by feedback from volunteer reviewers, comments from Web site owners and input from SiteAdvisor analysts. SiteAdvisor does not accept payment from sites to be rated or to have ratings changed, thus ensuring that ratings are objective and uniformly applied. The result is a rich, multifaceted, uncensored and constantly improving Web site advisory system which consumers can trust.

As Internet users search and browse, SiteAdvisor helps them find “green” sites and avoid “red” ones. When users search with popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo! or MSN, SiteAdvisor's software displays safety ratings next to search results. As users browse the Internet, a small SiteAdvisor button on their browser toolbar changes color based on SiteAdvisor's safety results. SiteAdvisor documents every test it conducts, so users can look up any site’s detailed safety report on SiteAdvisor’s free Web site.

Even prior to its trial version launch, SiteAdvisor has received strong accolades from the technical and Internet security communities, including a 5 star rating from download.com, the Web’s most popular site for downloading and rating software. Since the release of the company’s December 2005 “Preview Version,” consumers downloaded more than 150,000 copies of SiteAdvisor’s software and visited its site more than 1.5 million times.

SiteAdvisor was founded by a group of MIT engineers who realized there was a gaping hole in existing Web security products. While traditional security companies had gotten relatively good at addressing technical threats like viruses, they were failing to prevent a new breed of "social engineering" tricks -- scams that trick users into downloading malicious software or signing up at Web sites that send unwanted e-mail or steal personal information.

“Many of us in the technical community knew traditional approaches were failing when ‘going home for the holidays’ meant cleaning the spyware off the family computer,” said Doug Wyatt, co-founder and CTO. “We founded SiteAdvisor as a way to help keep our friends and families safer on the Web.”

“We focus on the practical, everyday implications of using a particular Web site,” explains Chris Dixon, SiteAdvisor co-founder and CEO. “We believe consumers want to know, in plain English: ‘If I download this program, will it come with adware?’ Or, ‘if I sign up here, how much and what kind of e-mail will I receive?’ SiteAdvisor works so well for average consumers because it zeros in on the moment of decision, when users are about to interact with a dangerous site. We can tell them: ‘We’ve been here before, and here’s what happened to us.’”

SiteAdvisor’s approach comes at a time when computer threats are shifting from technical attacks like viruses to economically motivated attacks like adware, spam, and phishing. An estimated 61% of all computers are infected with at least one piece of adware or spyware, according to The National Cyber Security Alliance and America Online (12/05). Jupiter Research (2/06) reports that the average consumer received 3,253 pieces of spam in 2005. “Phishing” attacks are also a major problem: Gartner Research noted that 73 million Americans received an e-mail in 2005 that attempted to lead them to a site which would steal personal or financial information. Consumer reaction to these threats has been to “stay close to home.” The Pew Internet Report (7/05) found 48% of users no longer visiting new Web sites out of fear of infection. Clearly, economically-motivated attacks are costly in terms of money, time and freedom, and their prevalence is growing.

SiteAdvisor complements traditional security software which tends to focus on technical threats and cleaning up problems after they occur. “That leaves a big hole in consumers’ Web safety armor because they don’t know what’s safe to click in the first place” explained Dixon. “We focus on the kinds of attacks that other companies miss, so consumers can browse with confidence and stay safe and in control online.”

The free trial version of SiteAdvisor’s software for Internet Explorer and Firefox is available at www.siteadvisor.com.

About SiteAdvisor
SiteAdvisor Inc. (www.siteadvisor.com) is a consumer software company pioneering the field of Web Safety by testing and rating every site on the Internet. SiteAdvisor’s intuitive visual safety ratings help protect Internet users from a wide range of security threats and nuisances including adware, spam, viruses, and online scams. Using proprietary automated testing enhanced by extensive user feedback, SiteAdvisor has already rated sites representing more than 95 percent of Web traffic. Founded in April 2005 by a group of MIT engineers who wanted to make the Internet safer for their friends and families, the company is headquartered in Boston, Mass.

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Shane Keats
E-mail: SiteAdvisor PR
617-880-7655