yahoo searchscan.png

Yahoo, just like Google, has decided that they need to start taking steps to protect users from malicious search results that they might be serving up. They’re calling the new feature SearchScan, and it is powered by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor. You can actually get a SiteAdvisor browser add-on yourself that will do almost the same thing, but the people who are actually aware of SiteAdvisor’s existence are probably not the ones that need it the most. Yahoo’s implementation, on the other hand, will reach out to anyone that performs searches on their site!

As seen in the screenshot above the warning that Yahoo displays is a lot less discreet than Google’s, although Google does take users to a warning page before letting them actually visit the site. Plus I found that Yahoo was actually flagging more sites than Google. Many of the ones Yahoo/McAfee deems dangerous seem to slide by whatever kind of detection system Google is using.

What’s really nice is that Yahoo not only checks to see whether a site contains malicious downloads, but it also flags those that sell your email address. Here are the three different warnings that you’ll possibly see in the search results:

  • Browser Exploits — These are sites that can stealthily harm a user’s computer or install malware simply by visiting the site. Beginning today, any such sites or pages included in McAfee’s data will be removed from search results automatically.
  • Dangerous Downloads — SearchScan will display warnings next to search results for sites that offer potentially dangerous software, such as viruses, spyware or adware. Users often may be unaware that these can be passed along with the screensavers, games and other software downloads.
  • Unsolicited Email — SearchScan will alert users to scanned sites that send unsolicited emails or inappropriately share email addresses with third parties.

There are a few SearchScan settings that you can configure as well. Optionally you can disable the service all together, or you can even have it remove any results that have been flagged by McAfee for one of the above reasons. Yup, you can have it hide the malicious sites so that you never even have to see them.

Kudos to Yahoo for adding this much needed system, and now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that people actually listen to the warnings.