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Everybody knows they should practice safe surfing, but how do you know when a website might contain malicious code? LinkScanner attempts to give you a heads-up by scanning pages of search results and displaying a badge letting you know if a site is safe or not. Unfortunately, LinkScanner is marred by too many cryptic warnings, and too little useful information.
LinkScanner utilizes five different icons with three separate cautionary badges, but so many warnings undermine its supposed effectiveness. Obviously if a site contains malicious code or viruses, you should be cautioned to avoid it. But the five-step indicator will leave many users guessing if they should avoid “high risk” sites and “caution advised” sites--and what to do when they come across “unknown” sites.
The Pirate Bay was singled out as one of the only dangerous torrent sites we found. We're not sure what the warning even means, but whatever it is, it sounds bad.
Ultimately those questions are rather insubstantial as our test trip through the seedier parts of the internet only triggered three of the five badges, and a vast majority of those sites were labeled as safe sites. Our main beef with this software is that several of the greenlighted sites were clearly not safe; we were granted clearance for torrent sites, sketchy MP3-sharing sites, and other notorious pages we know contain e-hazards. One of the only high-danger warnings we received wasn’t even dangerous--it explained how a different site used malicious software.
To its credit, LinkScanner is sleeker than most of the obnoxious Internet-security software we’ve seen. Small badges posted beside a link look natural and unassuming, if not a little Windows XP-ish. Hovering over a badge displays an explanation of why it was marked as such, but these definitions don’t always make sense--and AVG didn’t bother to provide any documentation or other help. We found ourselves reading the cryptic message that a site we were interested in “may inflict active threat delivery,” but without any idea of why we should care. And if you’re using anything besides Google, Yahoo, or Bing for search, and Safari or Firefox as a browser, LinkScanner won’t work on your setup anyway.
Follow this article's author, Nic Vargus, on Twitter.
Without consistent, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive protection, there’s just no reason to use LinkScanner.
LinkScanner for Mac
REQUIREMENTS: Safari 3 or later, or Mozilla Firefox 3 or later; Mac OS 10.5.6 or later
Doesn’t slow down internet browsing or substantially clutter up search results. It’s free.
Seemingly random distribution of caution badges. Dramatic-sounding definitions of risks don’t actually say anything. Looks like Windows software moonlighting on a Mac. No documentation.