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Geek Chic: SiteAdvisor

This story was originally published online in a different form.

How can you tell if a Web site may be dangerous to visit? Let SiteAdvisor help.

You install the software, currently in beta release, as an extension for Firefox or a plug-in for Internet Explorer. It uses Internet bots to test sites, downloads and e-mail sign-up forms. Sites that force or persuade your system to download unwanted files; try to fool you into signing up for a lifetime of spam or link to unsafe sites; or deluge you with pop-ups get a big red X next to their name on Google, Yahoo and MSN search listings. Sites that may link to one or two unsafe pages, or send slightly too many e-mails when you fill in their forms, get a cautious yellow exclamation point. Sites that pass all the tests are rewarded with a green checkmark. SiteAdvisor also puts a button on your browser that indicates the safety of the current site, using the same system.

Want more info? Pass your cursor over the SiteAdvisor icon and a pop-up balloon tells you how many downloads and site links the bot has registered, and how many e-mails per month you'd get from registering on the site. Click on the icon, and you get charts and illustrations to explain why the site got its rating. You can drill down to get ratings for each file that's available for download on the site.

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