It seems McAfee has decided to join the party with software to detect piracy. The company has put forward a patent that links into SiteAdvisor to help block and stop illegal activities such as piracy on tne net. SiteAdvisor is a link scanner in the McAfee anti-virus and anti-malware security suite. McAfee hopes that the software will help curb piracy and bring down unwanted or unintended malware infections by downloading software on sites that are not trusted.

McAfee Intel Logo

TorrentFreak reports that the company has just recently patented a new technology that integrates with McAfee SiteAdvisor to block piracy and any attempts to download files, software or media illegally. One of the methods software protection (DRM) companies have touted to work is blocking internet access to any illegal content, but just how they do it is a difficult question. Regulating the internet of your customers as an ISP is a really easy way to see your business flop within a month. So instead, McAfee, and Intel by extension, because it owns the company, have created an extension to SiteAdvisor to direct users away from pirated content and towards a legal alternative. It doesn’t look entirely draconian either.

mcafee-block

The software works like AVG’s Linkscanner Surfshield network. Surfshield parses URLs you visit through servers with sites that are blacklisted for hosting viruses and doesn’t personally identify you because, unless you pay for it, you don’t register your free license using any credentials. It also raises flags if the site’s security certificate is out of date, of the cookies want to install anywhere else other than their normal location on your drive, or AVG has picked up a URL hijack attempt.

SiteAdvisor’s planned implementation works in a similar fashion. It parses the URLs you’re going to, checking if there are any known piracy-related activities going on there. Up until the “OK Request”, it works in the same fashion as some modern web browsers and anti-virus suites that help protect you against the nasties on the net. However, the Request adds an extra layer onto the process.

mcafee siteadvisor sure

SiteAdvisor will ask you before going onto the page if you really want to visit it. According to the patent it offers a choice of four options – Warn and visit it anyway, warn and also offer alternative addresses to legal content or blocking it with alternatives or just giving you no options at all. The “Get Protection Everywhere” seems to point to a fifth option – block all the sites and give me legal alternatives all the time in future.

You can additionally read a report on the site (probably a DCMA takedown request of some sort), learn more about the copyright warning and see some recommended alternatives. Well, I guess it’s not so bad if you have these options, right?

Only, there’s nothing mentioned yet, not even a EULA for the next version of McAfee, that details what happens to the information being parsed to the servers, especially if its a link to pirated content. Last time I played with McAfee I had to sign up with my client’s information and e-mail address and if that information is stored and linked directly to you (just like your entire Google Search history), then there’s the possibility for spying on what you’re doing or even instituting legal action. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Intel or McAfee probably intend, but that’s how many are interpreting it. SiteAdvisor also has the power to become something of an internet guard, blocking users from visiting specific sites or viewing content that hasn’t been approved or is deemed illegal.

macafee-search

I admit, though, this is very useful in the right hands. If you have kids and the extension allows you to block sites, porn, Facebook and all other sorts of stuff including piracy websites, that may help keep your data bill low and prevent your kids in inadvertently taking part in illegal activity or putting themselves in danger. The same goes for computers and laptops in the work place – blocking unwanted and illegal content helps protect the company and its employees. Proxy servers can only do so much.

Some people will see the potential for nefarious uses, like blocking legitimate websites that the company doesn’t want you to see, but if you’re at least given the option to visit the site anyway its not a total train smash. However, if it ever is in the future, you can just uninstall it and move to something else. Thats’s the beauty of an open platform.

Source: TorrentFreak, US Patents office – PCT/US2012/058666

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