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Netcraft this week released a Firefox version of its free anti-phishing toolbar. The release follows the availability of a similar Internet Explorer plug-in, released in December 2004.

The toolbar blocks access to phishing sites reported by other members of the Netcraft Toolbar community and validated by Netcraft. More than 7,000 such phishing sites have been detected and blocked so far, Netcraft reports. The release runs on any operating system supported by Firefox, displaying the hosting location, popularity, and an "abstracted risk rating" for each site visited.

In addition, the toolbar defends against pop up windows which attempt to hide the navigational controls and traps suspicious URLs containing obfuscated characters. The toolbar can be downloaded here.

Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks commonly pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. This simple trick has become the increased focus of fraudulent activity.

In response, security firms have developed various paid-for and free products designed to help surfers to stay one step ahead of fraudsters. For example, digital certificate firms Comodo has developed technology to tie the visual components of a site to its website address using digital certificate technology. Vengine has been around for the best part of 18 months as a discrete download but was this week made available to third-party toolbar vendors.

Earlier this month, digital certificate rival GeoTrust released a free IE plug-in, called Trustwatch, which verifies the security and trustworthiness of websites using a simple traffic-light system. The toolbar works in conjunction with the Anti-Phishing Working Group blacklists. ®

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