UK banks and retailers are investigating e-mail monitoring services that could offer early warning of "phishing" attacks by hackers attempting to trick consumers into disclosing their online banking passwords.
Although the losses from attacks against banks including NatWest, Lloyds and Barclays have been relatively small, concern is growing that more sophisticated phishing attacks in the future could cause significant losses.
Security experts said plans by Microsoft to patch a phishing vulnerability in Internet Explorer would have little impact on the problem, as hackers could use other equally effective techniques to fool consumers.
E-mail monitoring firms Brightmail and Messagelabs confirmed last week that they were holding talks with banks and online retailers about proposals to provide an early-warning service for phishing attacks.
"As soon as phishers start sending out e-mails we can alert the banks, so they can start getting the phishing websites shut down," said Messagelabs.
Anti-virus companies have already added signatures to detect phishing e-mails which exploit the Internet Explorer vulnerability, but there are concerns that home users who do not keep their anti-virus systems up-to-date may still be vulnerable.
Stuart Okin, chief security officer at Microsoft, said banks and retailers should be educating customers to check the authenticity of websites and e-mails.