For those of you who haven’t heard of McAfee Site Advisor, in their own words ‘We test websites for spyware, spam and scams so you can search, surf and shop more safely’. Users can download their software, which adds ‘safety ratings’ to the browser and search engine results. This tells the user whether a site is safe or not before they have even clicked into it. Sounds great doesn’t it?
And it would be – if it was always accurate.
At the end of last year we had a customer come to us to say that their site (built by SimpleClick) was rated as red by McAfee Site Advisor. This customer’s site is really simple – no pop-ups, downloads or ecommerce capabilities – so we couldn’t see what the problem was. Most worryingly, the warning associated with a red site is: ‘McAfee TrustedSource web reputation analysis found potential security risks with this site. Use with extreme caution'.
Of course, we contacted McAfee immediately to ask first of all for an explanation as to why the site was rated red. We had to do this via a contact form, and I was told I would see a response in 5 working days.
Five days later I had a response telling me that, ‘SiteAdvisor engineers will look into your issue, and will issue a change if it is deemed appropriate.’ Their website says that all results will be shared - see www.siteadvisor.com/webmasters/index.html under the heading 'What happens after the evaluation is done? When will my site's rating change?' - "McAfee will e-mail the site owner to share the results of its evaluation. If our evaluation confirms that our test data was in error, the site's rating will be changed within one business day after we complete our evaluation."
I checked the rating again myself the following day – it had changed to green, without us making any changes at all to the website. Obviously we were relieved, but this didn’t explain why the site was flagged as red in the first place – and where was our apology?!
I tried to contact SiteAdvisor by phone, only for the receptionists at McAfee to have no idea what SiteAdvisor was or what I was talking about, and eventually learning that there is apparently no way at all to contact SiteAdvisor customer service by telephone.
So, I replied to McAfee’s original email and this time copied it to David DeWalt (McAfee CEO), Complaints and Support. The majority of the email outlined the fact that inaccurately classifying websites as ‘dangerous’ can have an extremely damaging effect – not only to the website owner, but also to the reputation of the company who built the website. The least that McAfee could do would be to issue a full explanation and apology that we could pass onto our client.
The response I received?
I am very glad to inform you that your site has been rated Green by McAfee SiteAdvisor.
Please click on the link below for more information
We appreciate your patience during this process.
I realised that I was banging my head against a brick wall. Eventually, approximately six weeks after initially raising the issue with them, I received an email blaming the incorrect rating on the fact that McAfee had acquired TrustedSource. Apparently during the database integration, something went wrong, and the site was incorrectly flagged as red.
So, after all that, what advice would I give? Well – firstly keep an eye on your Site Advisor rating (it pains me to say this as it means more downloads of their software, but needs must!). If the rating ever changes from green, query it immediately and keep chasing it up. Don’t expect a decent explanation and don’t expect an apology from McAfee. And finally, blog about your experience.