It's sort of new, it's improved, but I still can't understand why anyone would pay for it. I’m talking about McAfee’s so-far ill-starred SiteAdvisor anti-phishing tool, bought in for an “undisclosed amount” last April.

It was Mcafee’s bad luck to acquire the browser add-on at almost precisely the moment when researchers started to cotton on that anti-phishing toolbars aren’t on the whole much cop. Is there any point to these add-ons when most of them struggle to block phishing websites? A number of reports have suggested not, and SiteAdvisor turned out to be the worst of the lot, scoring zero in one test.

The company’s explanation for its poor showing was that the product had never claimed to be an anti-phishing toolbar in the first place (exclaims: eh?), a disingenuous construction we thought was probably hashed after the event to cover up careless marketing.

It was true that SiteAdvisor didn’t include anti-phishing capability, but users (and testers) had been led to believe it did have by a misleading website description. And what, in any case, was the point of a security toolbar that *didn’t* have such a feature when all its rivals did and phishing is in any case public enemy number one? That’s like fitting three-wheels to a sports car and then saying it was never intended to drive faster than 50 mph.

Curiously, the company more recently launched a paid-for version of SiteAdvisor that included the anti-phishing feature among other claimed enhancements, even though all of its rival toolbars offer that for free.

Now the company has re-launched the free version with all four wheels, adding the anti-phishing capability that should have been there all along. The paid-for version remains for download at $24.95 with only two extra features - email and IM link protection, and a password-protected mode that blocks websites regardless of where and how they are encountered.

Is this added feature worth paying for? Well I can think of a completely foolproof way of getting the same for absolutely nothing: never click on unknown links.

Subversives might say that SiteAdvisor isn't worth paying a bean for – with or without anti-phishing - but if that's true then what made McAfee acquire the product in the first place for that mysteriously secret sum? You have to wonder.