McAfee Teams With Yahoo To Make Web Searches More Secure


Both McAfee and Yahoo execs say that the overriding goal of the partnership is to make the Internet secure for users -- a result which Yahoo hopes will drive more users to its site as their primary search engine.

"Users are very concerned about the threats on the Web and downloads such as adware, malware, viruses and botnets," said Priyank Garg, director of product management for Yahoo Search. "Four out of five users start with a search. (The partnership) is a really effective way to reduce anxiety levels and allow them to do daily activity on the Web. We wanted to make Yahoo Search a leading starting point for users."

The new technology is delivered through the Yahoo SearchScan feature, which launched its beta version Tuesday, and is powered by McAfee SiteAdvisor technology. SiteAdvisor, a site which tests and rates trafficked Web pages on the Internet for malicious threats, can be accessed as a free download for users.

With the integration of the McAfee technology, Yahoo users browsing the Web will be protected from malicious sites before visiting them. Users browsing the Web via Yahoo will see red exclamation points that appear when they are visiting risky sites that contain spyware, adware, Trojans and botnets, as well as other malware that could potentially harm their PCs. In addition, the SearchScan technology also identifies and warns users about sites that have had untrusted or suspicious e-mail practices that have previously flooded inboxes with unwanted spam.

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Further enhancing its security measures, Yahoo has also completely eliminated access to Web sites that contain drive-by downloads -- sites that automatically install malware on a user's computer simply by visiting the site.

Execs say that the McAfee/Yahoo partnership represents a progessive next step for online searches by implementing comprehensive, across the board security for all Yahoo users. In addition, the partnership addresses the rise of malicious attacks launched via the Web, as well as users' growing uneasiness about safety when conducting online searches or transactions, execs say.

"It really impacts the whole fabric of the Internet," said Tim Dowling, vice president of McAfee's Web Security Group. "It's going to impact everybody's business."

For McAfee, the deal will likely result in greater global exposure by emerging as a primary player in the Web search security space -- an area of security relatively untapped by many security vendors.

Dowling said that in particular, McAfee was positioned to provide Yahoo comprehensive Web security after its recent acquisitions of SiteAdvisor, as well as ScanAlert, an e-commerce Web security provider.

"It's really tough to be your own internal police auditor," said Dowling. "By having someone like McAfee, they have a clear third-party who spends night and day worrying about this and telling them where they are at risk. It's something that's really been missing. It requires investment."

For Yahoo, the deal represents an opportunity to regain lost market share. The company's stock fell 15 percent Monday when Microsoft withdrew its $47.5 billion bid over the weekend. Meanwhile, the company remains in second place to its nearest competitor, holding its place with about 20 percent of the market, while search engine giant Google continues to grow with around 67 percent of the market.

"If you make the right product, users come to you," said Garg. "Everyone wants to have a safer search experience. We hope the benefit to users will translate into marketshare for us."

However, Yahoo is not the first to implement a large-scale security alert system on its engine. While refraining to comment specifically on the Yahoo deal, Google maintains that it has also implemented security technologies that identify and index malware-serving sites and warns users before they visit potentially compromised Web pages. In addition, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said that it has taken measures to eliminate sites that exploit browser vulnerabilities to install malicious software.

Yahoo execs countered that Google's has consistently failed to provide security measures that are both comprehensive and effective.

"Google is much more about evaluating browser exploits," said Garg. "It's been inconsistent. In either case, we haven't seen something that is really clear and actually works for users. (The security warnings) are easy to miss."

Yet, despite making its search engine safer for users, analysts remain skeptical that beefed up security will enable Yahoo to regain a significant amount of marketshare, if any.

"I don't think it changes much." said Saqib Kahn, senior research analyst for Aberdeen Group, a technology research organization. "It's just a small evolutionary step. I don't think people are going to run to Yahoo as a result. I think it means that people who are already with Yahoo will probably stay with Yahoo."

"At the end of the day, a search is not done to safely navigate. It's done to get the right site very quickly," Kahn added.