Yahoo Joins McAfee To Protect Users From Web Threats

Starting Tuesday, the new security feature will display a red exclamation point and a warning next to links that McAfee has identified containing malicious downloads or malware, as well as sites that have used visitors' e-mail addresses to send out spam.

Consumers will see these alerts if they come across malware or malicious sites when they are conducting Internet searches on

McAfee execs say that the overriding goal of the parntership is to simply keep users safe from Web threats and giving them peace of mind when they surf the Internet.

"We're trying to get a major search partner who would come together with us to deliver a safer search experience," said Tim Dowling, vice president of McAfee's Web Security Group. "At the end of the day, most users start their Internet experience with a search."

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For many users, the search process is inherently risky, as attackers have increasingly used legitimate Websites to serve malicious code. Dowling noted that billions of pieces of malware are served per month on users' computers.

"That's a huge number of risky sites that consumers have to guess which are bad and which are good," Dowling added.

Some of the malicious downloads that will be blocked from user access include adware, which forces users to view unwanted ads, as well spyware, which installs keystroke loggers and information stealing software and sends sensitive information and credentials to the attackers. Consumers will also be protected from malware such as Trojans, viruses and botnets that allow cyber criminals to take complete control of users' computers.

In addition to issuing warnings, Yahoo is completely eliminating access to drive-by downloads -- sites that attempt to automatically install malicious code on a users' computer by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Web browsers. Unlike malicious links and file downloaders, users can have malware injected on their computers simply by visiting an infected site. Drive-bys are particularly dangerous due to the fact that they are often installed on "legitimate" Websites.

"The biggest Websites have some of the biggest risks because they're so complex," said Dowling. "The bigger the Website, the more complex the Website, the harder it is to keep safe."

The combined endeavor is driven by the new SearchScan feature of Yahoo Search -- which launched its beta version Tuesday -- and is powered by McAfee's SiteAdvisor technology.

McAfee's SiteAdvisor, one of the company's recent acquisitions, alerts users to "risky" sites by flagging them with colored icons. The site provides ratings by using advanced technology to conduct automated Web site tests, and can be accessed as a free download by users.

Yahoo execs say that the new SearchScan technology addresses users' growing concerns about accessing dangerous search listings when conducting a routine Web search.

"Through this partnership with McAfee, we can offer users a safer search experience and drive more users to make Yahoo Search their starting point on the Web," said Vish Makhijani, senior vice president and general manger of Yahoo Search in a written statement. "No other search engine today offers this level of warning before visiting sites that can damage or infect a user's PC and cost them valuable time and money."

McAfee execs echoed that the acquisition of SiteAdvisor, along with ecommerce Web security provider ScanAlert, allowed the security company to enter the search business by providing the necessary technology for it to delve into comprehensive consumer Web protection.

"It does require a different set of expertise," said Dowling. "With our two acquisitions, SiteAdvisor and ScanAlert, we've acquired the core talent and infrastructure that those companies need that really gets us into the search business. We're crawling the net like an average search business does."

The McAfee-Yahoo partnership is a multi-year, global agreement with benefits to companies, including bringing Yahoo Search to McAfee users in the next few months.

The deal represents an opportunity by Yahoo to regain share value after the proposed $47.5 billion deal with software giant Microsoft collapsed over the weekend. The Sunnyvale-based company fell 15 percentage points Monday after Microsoft withdrew its bid.

Meanwhile, Yahoo remains the number two search engine, with about 20 percent of the marketshare, compared with Google's which has grown well past 60 percent, according to Nielson.

However, executives say that falling share prices and diminished market share were not a concern regarding its decision to partner with Yahoo. They said they believed the Sunnyvale-based search engine was the best choice after examining numerous search engine competitors, including closest competitor Google.

While execs declined to comment regarding the details of the transaction, Dowling said that the deal had been in the works "for a while."

"We ignore stock price," said Dowling. "We looked at who has aligned incentive to make a more secure search, and who is willing to invest deeply to differentiate and be a partner with McAfee to make the Internet more secure. We just found Yahoo was the best partner."

"They take the problems seriously," he added.