McAfee Internet Guard Dog 3.0 protects against an array of Net pitfalls, including unauthorized cookies, lost passwords, and annoying banner ads. At a list price of $39.95, this utility is cheaper than Norton Internet Security 2000, but it lacks Norton's advanced firewall features. It can't protect your PC from hacker attacks. Guard Dog is a solid choice if you dial in to the Internet, but cable and DSL users should steer clear. Note: McAfee just announced a Pro version of Internet Guard Dog that should include a firewall. The product is expected to ship around the end of May '00.
Guard Dog is relatively easy to install, but it prompts you for a ton of personal information before you even finish the process. We're glad the program searches for important data in order to keep it secure, but we'd rather see the information setup after the configuration so that it's clear why the program asks for these nitty-gritty details. And Guard Dog's main control panel is confusing. It's so packed with option settings--four main categories, with subsections under each--that it's easy to get lost. For example, we had difficulty finding out how to edit a password.
Barks for Cookies
But Guard Dog's main task is keeping track of cookies and passwords and it performs that task well. As soon as a Web site issues a cookie (a little program that saves data, such as a password, on your computer) or requests one from your computer, Guard Dog barks to alert you. At that point, you either accept or reject the cookie. Of course, so many sites issue cookies, the barking reaches a din when you're surfing. Thankfully, you can instruct Guard Dog to always accept or reject cookies from your favorite sites. This stops the barking. Another nice tool, Password Manager, stores usernames and passwords for Web sites so that you don't have to remember each one, then lets you drag and drop them into place. Slick.
Guard Dog watches for other security hazards, too. It warns you when personal information such as your address or Social Security number is sent over the Net and even prevents wicked Web sites from running ActiveX Controls that scan or format your drive, delete files, or grab passwords without your knowledge. Plus, Guard Dog offers filters that keep naughty sites and chats away from impressionable young eyes and automatically remove banner ads. Our quibble: Guard Dog inconsistently removed banner ads, though it did block most of them. When you're finished surfing, Guard Dog's Web Trail Cleaner spiffies up. It deletes cookies and clears your browser's cache and history log whenever you close the browser, which frees up space on your hard drive.
Won't Guard the Back Door
But Guard Dog lacks a key feature: it doesn't have a firewall. It can't inform you of or protect you from hackers that may attack your PC through the Internet connection. Without a secure firewall, it's only half as good as Internet Security 2000.
Overall, Guard Dog does a decent job protecting your Web front door. You decide which cookies to accept, which naughty Web sites to filter, and which private info should be kept private. Guard Dog is perfectly fine for dial-up users, especially those who don't spend a lot of time online, but users with high-speed, always-on connections should look to Internet Security 2000.