Toolbar, search site aim to guard against phishers

GeoTrust on Monday will unveil free services meant to protect people from unwittingly giving up personal data to fake sites.

A Massachusetts company on Monday plans to launch a search site and toolbar that will alert Internet users when they are visiting Web sites that are fraudulent or should not be trusted.

The and TrustWatch Toolbar, both provided free from Needham, Mass.-based GeoTrust, are designed to help protect people from unwittingly giving up their financial and other personal information to fake Web sites when shopping online or when targeted by phishing scams.

In phishing scams, victims usually receive e-mails purporting to be from legitimate companies, like eBay, that provide a link for them to update their account information. However, the link takes people to a fake Web site where any information they provide can be used to access their accounts.

The TrustWatch Toolbar provides real-time alerts, either red to signal that the Web site is unverified as being safe, yellow for caution, or green to indicate that it is verified and users should call the company first. People who want to shop online can use the TrustWatch Search Web site, powered by Ask Jeeves, and the results will show the same alerts.

The alerts also provide other information about Web sites, such as whether a site has been authenticated as trustworthy and has a Secure Sockets Layer certificate to safeguard data during transmissions. The system scans a Web site for fraud patterns and checks it against a blacklist of fraud sites. It also offers reviews and store ratings from shopping engine BizRate and information about how long the site has been online, how many other sites link to it, and a traffic ranking from the Alexa Web crawler.

Similar browser-based antiphishing toolbars have been launched or are in the works. For example, Internet services company Netcraft provides a free plug-in for Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox that provides a risk rating for Web sites and blocks those it assesses as phishing sites. Microsoft itself has introduced a tool to identify scam sites for MSN and has said it will build similar antiphishing features into its IE 7 update.

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