Antiphishing security software in the making

Symantec Corp. said Monday it would release in September a beta version of a security software product that hardens a computer’s defenses against e-commerce and banking fraud.

The software, Norton Confidential, will detect when a Web site or malicious program is trying to swipe a user name or password, a rising form of Internet crime called phishing, Symantec said.

A phishing attack usually involves a link sent by e-mail or instant message that leads to a Web page constructed to appear legitimate. Instead, the Web page often asks for sensitive data such as bank account or Social Security numbers, information that can be used for an identity theft scheme or other online fraud.

The software is one of many products under development by security and software vendors intended to catch phishing attempts. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of companies and researchers, recorded a record 20,109 unique phishing attacks in May.

Norton Confidential scans Web sites visited by a user for fraudulent or suspicious activity. The software compares a Web site against lists of fraudulent ones.

Norton Confidential will also generate warnings for pages that function like known fraudulent sites. Most phishing sites are taken down by ISPs (Internet service providers) within a few hours or days, but a window of attack remains in the interim.

The software can also scan computers for Trojan horse programs, applications that purport to be harmless but have malicious functions, such as recording keystrokes or downloading other bad programs.

Norton Confidential will verify sites’ authenticity using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption technology, Symantec said. Hackers have found a variety of ways to fake a site with SSL, by methods such as manipulating graphics or exploiting Web browser flaws.

The software is capable of encrypting stored passwords and prompting when credentials are sent to unknown or unauthorized sites, Symantec said.

Symantec will offer a version in October for Apple Computer Inc.’s Mac operating system that is similar to the one for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP OS. Pricing will be released later, the company said.

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