Scansafe tries to make web browsing safer…



Scansafe is launching a new free product called scandoo which aims to tag search results with Green yellow and blow widgets so you know which sites are safe (green), dangerous (red) or uncertain (Yellow). ZDnet had news of the scandoo service which is not the first attempt at making the web safe… Siteadvisor from McAfee attempts to do the same (with installed software) and Symantec is working on a competitor as well. Further there are toolbars that attempt to protect users from phishing scams, but I’m not sure that this service will be as successful as hoped.


I’ve tried it and one thing that it relies on is the categorizing of sites. Essentially sites are tagged into categories – Here’s the list…

Arts and Culture
Business
Community
Dating
Education
Fashion and Beauty
Finance
Food and Drink
Gambling
Hate and Discrimination
Health
Illegal activities
Leisure and Entertainment
Nature
News and Magazines
Online Services
Politics and Society
Religion
Sex / Nudity
Shopping
Sports
Technology
Toys and Games
Travel
Unclassified
Weapons

By default 4 categories are tagged as unacceptable (Weapons, Sex and Nudity, Illegal Activities and Hate and Discrimination) and will be marked with the red icon. You can add tags to your “unacceptable site list. Sites that haven’t been categorized are left with a yellow question mark. There are problems that I’ve seen though. For one, I’m not sure what lengths one has to go to get a site categorized. I’ve tried to tag this site as technology several times as I’m in the yellow question mark territory. I suspect that it takes their moderators intervention, or a certain number of votes perhaps. But what if a “trusted” domain tagged as Leisure and Entertainment lapses and get’s registered by a hate group? Also, it does merely tag content rather than preventing the visiting of it.

It only tags those results from the search engine. It doesn’t tag sponsored results (ads) or links once you’ve followed one page. I don’t think this will have a great impact on the number of spyware, adware, or browsers exploited. There is a note in the zdnet article that they have a browser toolbar on the way, which I suppose could be more effective in tagging sites (i.e. sites that you visit after a main search page would be tagged I hope.) However, this looks more like a possible route to a content filter than a cureall for spyware. (I didn’t see a single way that a site could be tagged as having malicious content, just categorized for content.) The truth is, it’s not just gambling/hacking/porn sites that have nasty browser exploit content.

Now, just looking at it as it is. I think it could be a good guide for someone wanting to avoid getting to the “wrong place”. For instance in a search for sex site…. it managed to tag fairly well, news and information sites as being ok, but porn sites with the red icon. (Although it didn’t prevent visiting the site, although I image with a toolbar, they might allow a system administrator to control that. So this could be a useful tool (with that added feature) with publicly collaborated tags for tightening controls on public pcs web access.)

Again, the zdnet article says it aims to reduce the risk of spyware/adware, by warning of malicious sites… in practice – not quite. I can’t tag this as “security” news then, but it might be a good content filter (or search advisor of a sort.)

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