McAfee Inc. is planning enhancements to its recently acquired SiteAdvisor software that will allow the Web-rating application to block inappropriate Web sites, offer safety ratings for online transactions and rate Web links that appear in e-mail and instant message windows.
The new features will be added to SiteAdvisor over the next year, starting with a "protected safe search" capability that will let parents and systems administrators automatically block users from visiting Web sites, depending on their SiteAdvisor rating, said Bill Kerrigan, the executive vice president of McAfee's consumer group.
McAfee is also working on new e-commerce rating features, as well as combining SiteAdvisor with its existing antiphishing and antispam products and services, Kerrigan said. "We have antiphishing technologies today that try to assure that you don't connect to a site that's imitating a legitimate business," he said. "We can now combine the McAfee content with the SiteAdvisor database and make that a much more powerful solution."
In April, McAfee paid more than $70 million for SiteAdvisor, a remarkable sum for a 14-person company that had only just released its first product, a free browser plugin. But McAfee believes that SiteAdvisor will be a key point of differentiation from competitors like Symantec Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
McAfee and Symantec are particularly vulnerable in the consumer space, where Microsoft has just begin shipping its first antivirus product, called Windows Live OneCare.
By combining McAfee's privacy services with SiteAdvisor, McAfee clearly hopes to stay a step ahead of Microsoft. Earlier this week, Kerrigan blasted his new competitor. "They completely ignore the most compelling issue today in the consumer's'' mind, which is, 'How do I protect my identity?'"
"There is nothing in OneCare that makes this a complete offer in line with consumer needs," he said.
The SiteAdvisor product was compelling to McAfee because it focused on something that wasn't being done by most security software: Helping users "make better decisions about how they use risky areas of the 'Net," said McAfee's Chief Technology Officer Christopher Bolin, also speaking at the company's financial analyst conference this week.
"When I saw it I realized this was the next generation of consumer security offerings, and had applications way outside of the consumer security space," Bolin said.
SiteAdvisor works with Web browsers to warn people when they are about to visit a site that's been associated with spam, spyware or computer viruses. The company has built a database of Web-site ratings, combined from millions of automated visits.
The company had been planning to release a premium version of SiteAdvisor in September, but that target has now been pushed back to year's end because of the acquisition.
McAfee is still figuring out whether it will sell the enhanced features as part of a premium version of SiteAdvisor or as options to its suite of security products, Kerrigan said.
Within the next few months, McAfee will deliver four suites of its next-generation security platform, code-named Falcon, all of which will include SiteAdvisor.
These products will range in price from $39.99 for the entry-level McAfee VirusScan Plus product, up to $99 for a multiuser version of the high-end McAfee Total Protection suite, Kerrigan said. Like Microsoft, McAfee also plans to offer versions of its products that can be used by up to three users, a package that is designed to make license management much easier for home users.
McAfee has no plans to discontinue the free version of SiteAdvisor, which has been available since early March.