Banks look to trial web toolbars to counter phishing e-mail attacks

The banking industry is investigating anti-phishing toolbars for web browsers as a potential answer to fraudulent e-mails...

The banking industry is investigating anti-phishing toolbars for web browsers as a potential answer to fraudulent e-mails following a huge increase in internet banking fraud.

The UK payments association Apacs said banks were investigating the technology as one of a range of countermeasures to tackle the epidemic of phishing.

The disclosure follows an attack on NatWest, which forced the bank last week to suspend the ability to make third-party payments for more than two days affecting one million customers.

Tom Salmond, manager of the e-banking working group at Apacs, said the anti-phishing toolbars had been introduced by sites such as eBay and that the same technology could help bank customers.

Banks are beginning to personalise the e-mails they send to customers by including their names and an agreed code-phrase to help customers to identify genuine e-mails from their bank.

In the longer term, the industry is looking to use two-factor authentication to verify customers' identities. Barclaycard is trialling a system that uses low-cost card-readers to generate pass-codes from bank cards.

Interim solutions under investigation include proposals to send SMS messages to customers to confirm transactions, and the introduction of pads of one-time user passwords.

A small number of banks have introduced software to detect suspicious transactions generated by phishing attacks, and this is likely to be taken up more widely, Salmond said.

"This kind of solution will be increasingly adopted in the next six- to nine months," he said.

Banks are also signing up to services which monitor the internet to detect websites which may be attempting to mimic real banking websites, and provide early warnings of the launch of new phishing attacks.

Apacs plans to launch a publicity campaign to alert the public to the dangers of acting as "money mules" for phishing gangs, over coming weeks.

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