Tom Pinckney: SiteAdvisor, 1:15pm Friday @ Codecon 2006
[W]e built an army of robot testers which click around the net looking for Web forms,
downloads, exploits, pop-ups, etc. We automatically download, install and test every
program in a fresh virtual machine. We submit unique e-mail addresses on forms so
we can track any resulting spam. We run kernel hooks that look for new processes or
executables that may indicate an exploit. A workflow system routes the test to a
human operator if the bots detect an error.
Awesome idea. Site Advisor may want to collaborate with 4:45 presenter Joe Stewart
(Truman), who claims
"malware is increasingly able to detect the presence of virtual machines".
SiteAdvisor recently got funding from, among others, Google. I wonder, will
they warn users about the spyware-like aspects of Google's toolbar, desktop
search, and other services? The funding is almost certainly a way to help
innoculate Google against such accusations, by helping to draw a bright line in the
sand, about where Google wants the line to be, with themselves on the "right" side and
many of their competitors on the "wrong". (See also from May 2004:
Google's self-innoculation.) (Correction 11pm Friday: I misread their press release -- SiteAdvisor's investors "include early investors in" Google, not Google itself. In my defense, a Google investment, to help Google down-rank evil sites and innoculate Google's own desktop offerings from criticism, would make a lot of sense!)
Update (2:29pm Friday): Saw the latter half of this presentation. Mostly as expected, and impressive. I neglected to realize that their own advisor toolbar necessarily collects URL histories like other spyware-ish toolbars. Brad Templeton suggested SiteAdvisor use technical measures to let toolbar users check sites without revealing their own visit history. Pinckney suggested SiteAdvisor had considered this, but he didn't seem too dedicated/open to the idea of fixing this issue. Essentially, "worry about giving your details to those other sites -- don't worry about us!" Should fit right in with Google's agenda.