Symantec has introduced a service designed to help companies to combat online identity theft, or "phishing".
The anti-virus software giant was set to announce on Monday a brand protection service that will use the company's global network of researchers and its desktop software to help companies to identify and thwart scams that use their names to trick customers.
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Phishing scams are online crimes that use spam to direct internet users to websites that are controlled by thieves but designed to look like legitimate e-commerce sites. Users are asked to provide sensitive information such as a password, bank account or credit card number, often under the guise of updating account information.
The Online Fraud Management Solution is a package of services that will be marketed to financial services companies. Symantec will use a global network of probes and decoy e-mail accounts to collect, analyse and identify new phishing scams targeted at Online Fraud Management customers.
When new scams are identified by Symantec researchers, they will create filters that block the fraudulent messages associated with those scams. Those filters will be automatically deployed to consumers who use Symantec applications such as Norton AntiSpam and Norton Internet Security, Symantec said.
It will also notify the Online Fraud Management customer company named in the scam e-mails so it can work with law enforcement to get the phishing website shut down.
Symantec will provide Online Fraud Management customers with access to a "user-friendly resource centre" with content that will help them to educate their customers about internet security threats, and with links to products and information to help them assess their computers' security exposure and protect it from attack.
Consulting services to provide assessments and help with implementation are also included in the program, Symantec said.
Online fraud and identity theft scams are a growing problem. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, an industry association with representatives from the high-technology industry and law enforcement, identified more than 1,400 unique phishing attacks in June, the most recent month for which statistics are available.
Phishing attacks are growing at more than 50% a month, the group found.
The scams have also attracted attention from the US government. In August, US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced 103 arrests for online fraud and other internet-related crimes. The operation included 160 investigations across the US for a variety of internet-related crimes, including phishing.
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service