Known more for its network tools, Netcraft also provides a free toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer that checks Web sites for malicious or suspicious content. It stops URLs containing characters designed to deceive, maintains navigational controls within a browser, and displays a site's hosting location--for example, a local U.S. bank hosted in Russia might be fraudulent. But the Netcraft toolbar won't integrate with your search results page to identify possible fraud sites; you'll need to click to be warned. Still, the price is right--it's free.
We had no trouble installing the Netcraft toolbar on Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7. The Netcraft toolbar is not available for Opera. The toolbar can be customized and reconfigured in a number of ways, though the default setting displays many useful tools. Under the Netcraft logo you'll find a drop-down menu that offers ways to report phishing sites and report bugs, a glossary of terms used, FAQs, stats on the phishiest countries reported by Netcraft, the phishiest Web hosts, the most visited Web sites, and corporate-branded toolbars. You will also find stats on Web server software and other minutiae that most people won't bother to read, such as the number of people switching hosting providers in the last two calendar months. The more useful parts of the toolbar are the visual graphics showing more red for malicious hosting sites and more green for safe sites. There's also an icon of the host server's country of origin.
We found the Netcraft toolbar played well alongside other secure browsing tools like McAfee SiteAdvisor (both free and paid) and Exploit Prevention Labs Linkscanner Pro, as well as with the native protection provided by Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7, even when we used all of them simultaneously. Should you ever want to uninstall the Netcraft toolbar, we had no trouble doing so.
Unlike Linkscanner Pro and SiteAdvisor--which both display their safety ratings over your current Google, Yahoo, or Live.com search result page--the Netcraft toolbar does not overlay its own ratings. And, despite an option to block cross-site scripting attacks, we still found a few defaced dangerous sites that Netcraft did not flag.