Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fishing out the phishers

A new service for fighting e-mail fraud seeks to tap the wisdom of the Internet community: Anyone will be able to submit suspected scams for others to vote up or down.

Freedom Networks LLC's OpenDNS, which provides free directory services necessary to translate a Web site's domain name into its actual numeric Internet address, developed the system to help block its users from so-called phishing sites. Such sites look real, but are actually scams to collect banking passwords and other personal information.

David Ulevitch, the company's chief executive, said the lists of phishing sites he had weren't all that good. He launched PhishTank this week under the belief the community could collectively do better — at no charge.

Users simply submit to the messages they believe are scams.

Others then examine the message and the site to which it links and decide whether it is or isn't a scam. When an item gets enough votes and the margin is wide enough, it is either dropped or classified as a phishing message. To prevent scammers from trying to game the system, votes are weighed based on how long, how often and how accurate one has rated other messages.

PhishTank isn't the first to seek the community's input to fight scams, but Ulevitch said that unlike the others, the company is offering access to the database for rivals to use for free.

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