Feeds

Trusted search software labels fraud site as 'safe'

Oops

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Digital certificate firm GeoTrust's launch of a search engine with built in trust features this week has been marred by the classification of a phishing site as genuine. Powered by Ask Jeeves, GeoTrust TrustWatch search aims to protect users against fraudulent behaviour and phishing attacks by giving web sites a verification rating. It's a laudable aim, but the classification of a recently created phishing site as "verified as safe" raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of the technology. Such incorrect classifications create a false sense of security that can only play into the hands of would-be fraudsters.

The bogus site purports to represent the Metropolitan Credit Union. It's a crude facsimile of the real site, but TrustWatch assigns the dodgy site a trusted status. Netcraft doesn't score much better in assigning the same ropy site with a risk rating of only "one", a single notch above trusted.

After learning the site was bogus, GeoTrust quickly blacklisted the suspicious destination. To its credit, it also worked with the US hosting firm that unwittingly hosted the site to remove it from the net, but that still leaves the question of how a fraudulent site (screen capture below) came to be awarded a trusted rating in the first place.

Chris Bailey, CTO of GeoTrust, explained that the domain used by the site had previously been verified as trusted. "It's unclear if this phishing site was economically active. In any case, it's now been taken down by the hosting company. It seems there was an insufficient amount of vetting," he said. The url associated with the phishing site has been blacklisted while other sites on the domain have been stripped of their trusted status.

Fraudulent site screenshot

Bailey said that the false classification of a fraudulent site as trusted by TrustWatch was "rare" and said ours was the sole such report. He added that the firm had set up a mechanism for users to report problems and claimed that TrustWatch will become more reliable as more users come on board. Feedback is reviewed, forwarded to anti-fraud organisations, aggregated and may be used in future TrustWatch ratings. An estimated 100,000 users have downloaded beta versions of the software prior to the launch of TrustWatch, the third generation of GeoTrust's anti-phishing toolbar, on Monday (26 September).

The inappropriate classification of a bogus site illustrates the early teething troubles of anti-phishing technology that may take some time to resolve. This is a shame because we found GeoTrust's technology otherwise well designed and easy to use.

The software is free and comes either as a component to GeoTrust's anti-phishing tool bar for Internet Explorer (no Firefox version yet) or by visiting TrustWatch.com. User search results generate green, yellow and red verification symbols beside each search result. Sites that can be verified by trusted third parties receive a green 'verified' rating; sites that have not been verified, but are not known to be fraudulent, receive a yellow 'not verified' rating; and known fraudulent sites display a red 'warning' rating. For the record El Reg gets a far from reassuring "not verified" rating from GeoTrust. Netcraft, by contrast, gives El Reg the green light.

TrustWatch Search is based on GeoTrust's identity verification technology. In addition, TrustWatch Search also works with leading providers of blacklist data, such as Cyota and the Anti-Phishing Working Group, to alert warns consumers about potentially fraudulent sites.

As we've discovered, it's not quite as simple as that so it's just as well there are mechanisms in place to quickly deal with anomalies both for consumers to report suspicious sites and for the manual review of wrongly-classified sites.

GeoTrust's technology is touted as a way for consumers to both find and evaluate the reliability of ecommerce outlets. For example, users can type queries directly into the search box on the TrustWatch toolbar. The Ask Jeeves search engine will return relevant search results alongside TrustWatch ratings. TrustWatch Search also provides a 'Site Report' link via which users can click to get more information about web merchants based on information from BizRate (for Website reviews and store ratings), TRUSTe (privacy policy data), ScanAlert (security audits database) and Alexa (traffic rank information). ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, watchdog claims
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.