Some of you may remember the MSN Desktop Search Toolbar Beta version as the download of the week on June 3, 2005. This great and much-needed addition (in my opinion, at least) to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer really brought the browser up to speed. Well, if you like the Search bar’s tabbed browsing and other features, then you should be happy to know that the official version of the search bar is out. The search bar has come into fruition and new add-ins are starting to appear. I thought that one in particular from the Microsoft mother ship was well worth mentioning.
The Phishing Filter Add-in for the MSN Search Toolbar is an Add-in (or Plug-in) which is nothing more than an application that installs to another program allowing you to utilize the application without ever leaving the primarily program your using. In this case the add-in is a small program that installs to the MSN Search Toolbar that helps to protect you against bogus or spoofed websites.
In case you don’t know, phishing is the act of an attacker trying to lure someone to a spoofed, often legitimate-looking website in order to steal some sort of personal information from the potential victim. To read a more detailed description of Phishing attacks, click here. The Phishing Filter warns or even completely stops the user from entering personal information in suspicious sites. The add-in protects you in two key ways:
1. A yellow bar at the bottom of your browser toolbar will warn you that this site appears suspicious based on its characteristics. This is similar to holistic scanning in anti-virus programs.
2. A red bar at the bottom of your browser’s toolbar will actually stop you from entering any personal information on the site because the add-in knows that it is a phishing site.
For the two levels of security (Warning/Blocking), the anti-phishing add-in relies on a number of different resources and data. At the Warning level, the add-in uses what it knows to look for suspicious activity, then it brings its suspicions to your attention for you own discretion. At the Blocking level, the add-in relies on data gathered from many different sources, including the end-users. Users can report bogus sites directly to Microsoft through the anti-phishing add-ins submenu. Microsoft then verifies and inputs this data into the Phishing Filters database, which in turn sends the info to all end-users through the Phishing Filter’s daily updates to keep everyone as up-to-date as possible.
This add-in is still in Beta version, but it will supposedly be part of the much-anticipated IE version 7, as will one of my favorite features, Tabbed Browsing. If you’re interested, download the Phishing Filter Add-in. Just remember that you need to have Internet Explorer 6 with the MSN search toolbar installed first. Stay safe out there.