AOL Fights Phishing

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America Online has begun a campaign to identify and block fraudulent Web sites that attempt to solicit personal information from visitors, it says.

The crackdown against so-called "phishing" sites is being conducted in partnership with online security provider Cyota, which provides antifraud services for financial institutions. AOL and Cyota will try to identify potential phishing sites and limit access to them from AOL's client software, the companies say.

AOL wants to block access to sites that spoof pages from its own service, as well as those that imitate other legitimate businesses such as banks, credit card providers, and online auctioneers. AOL subscribers can report suspected phishing sites by using a "report spam" button in AOL's software, and users who try to access known phishing sites will be notified that they are visiting a potentially dangerous site, AOL says.

On the Increase

E-mail phishing scams direct people to fraudulent Web sites where they are asked to enter information such as bank account details and passwords. Phishing is one of the fastest growing forms of online crime. The average monthly growth rate of phishing sites from July 2004 to February was 26 percent, according to data from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG). As of February, there were 2625 reported active phishing sites, the APWG says.

AOL is not alone in its attempt to crack down on such scams. In February, Microsoft, EBay, and Visa International launched a program to share information about phishing attacks called the Phish Report Network. And the APWG has over 1200 members, including many U.S. banks, ISPs, and technology companies, working together to eliminate online theft.

AOL's anti-phishing campaign is part of a broader initiative by the ISP to increase security for its users by blocking spam, working with law enforcement, and other measures. The Dulles, Virginia, company says it plans to roll out new and stronger initiatives to fight phishing and identity thieves in coming months.

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