Microsoft Expands Its Anti-Phishing Database

Updated: Microsoft partners with independent data providers to better monitor phishing Web sites.

Microsoft Corp. Thursday expanded the scope of its anti-phishing Internet software by announcing agreements with independent data providers Cyota Inc., Internet Identity, and MarkMonitor Inc., to supply round-the-clock information about confirmed and suspected phishing Web sites.

Real-time information about illicit Web sites collected by these three companies—who all developed their software on Microsoft .Net platforms—will be added into the overall data bank started earlier this year by Microsoft and its first anti-phishing partner, WholeSecurity Inc.

The three companies have large databases and extensive track records in online banking security. New York City-based Cyotas front-line product is eFraudNetwork, a cross-bank, shared fraudster database with 50 large member banks—including the Royal Bank of Canada—and thousands of smaller ones, as well as ISPs and technology partners, the company said.

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Tacoma, Wash.-based Internet Identity automatically detects and takes reports for phishing Web sites for a wide range of clients—from large banks and online services to the smallest credit unions.

MarkMonitor, based in San Francisco, works with about 40 percent of Fortune 100 companies to provide protection of corporate identity.

Whenever any of the three companies confirms that a particular URL leads to a phishing site attacking a customer, it immediately forwards the information to the Microsoft Phishing Filters URL reputation service.

Austin, Texas-based startup WholeSecurity was acquired by Microsoft security-market rival Symantec just last month, but this will not affect Microsofts strategy at this time, Samantha McManus, a Microsoft business strategy manager, told Ziff Davis Internet.

"Were treating WholeSecurity just like another [independent] partner," McManus said. "Anyway, Microsoft has several partnership-type projects in the works with Symantec. We will be using the services of all these companies."

In aggregate, the information acquired from the new sources will deepen phishing protection offered by the MSN Search Toolbar and the upcoming Windows Internet Explorer 7, as well as SmartScreen e-mail filter, to provide greater protection from scams using MSN Hotmail and Windows Live Mail, Microsoft said.

By signing on multiple data providers, Microsoft can utilize a broader set of information about phishing scams, combining third-party information with data that is user-generated, along with machine-learning technology that learns dynamically to help protect users, McManus told Ziff Davis Internet.

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"Ninety-five percent of [current] phishing scams involve an e-mail that comes into your box, then pushes you to a Web site to enter information," McManus said.

"The machine-learning and heuristics technology we use to power SmartScreen and Microsoft Phishing Filter can scan an e-mail or a Web page and look for certain common characteristics found in phishing scams, such as recognizable word patterns that scammers use or Web forms that ask for information," she said.

In related news, Thursday also marked the final launch of the Phishing Filter Add-in for the MSN Search Toolbar, now available for free download here.

Editors Note: This story was updated to clarify a quote.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...