Internet Companies Take Aim At Phishers
The company last week said its new browser will have a feature that can warn people about known identity-stealing "phishing" sites. Adware company WhenU last year started a similar program that involves serving consumers pop-ups that warn them when they have landed on a known phishing site.
Last week, it also came to light that Microsoft was instrumental in helping federal authorities make an arrest in a phishing scheme. Federal authorities last week arrested an Iowa man, Jayson Harris, for allegedly stealing credit card numbers in a phishing scam that had targeted MSN users.
Harris allegedly sent e-mails addressed "Dear MSN Customer" that contained links to a phony Microsoft page. The scam began to unravel after an e-mail ended up in the in-box of the mother-in-law of a Microsoft employee, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Microsoft's own lawyers got involved, and were able to subpoena information leading to Harris' arrest, according to the Times.
Publicity about Internet security issues--including not only phishing, but also spyware and other online problems--appears to have contributed to consumers curtailing their online behavior. A July report of the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 81 percent of online consumers have stopped opening some e-mail attachments due to fears relating to adware and spyware. And in April, Pew reported that 35 percent of users said they had received unsolicited e-mail seeking financial information.
Phishing activity itself seems to have declined in July, but remains at double the rate it was last October, according to a report issued last week by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a coalition including banks, Internet service providers, technology vendors, and others.
The group stated that it received 14,135 reports of instances of phishing last month--down from 15,050 in June. Still, the number was more than twice as high as in October 2004, when the group received just 6,957 reports.