Feeds

Trusted search software labels fraud site as 'safe'

Oops

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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). ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.