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iPhone anti-phishing protection goes AWOL

It just doesn't work

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

An anti-phishing feature hyped by Apple marketers has gone AWOL from the iPhone, according to two independent researchers who say the feature simply does not work.

Apple rolled out the feature in iPhone OS 3.0 for the device and once again called attention to it in Wednesday's update to the iPhone operating system. The feature is designed to warn users when they try to browse a page that's known to phish their login credentials for PayPal or some other sensitive online service.

Except that it doesn't. Michael Sutton, vice president of security research for Zscaler, says here that he plugged known phishing sites into both Safari and Safari Mobile and found the difference in responses to be stark.

The sites "were generally blocked by Safari, but none were blocked by Safari Mobile," he writes. "In fact, I have yet to identify a single phishing page blocked on the iPhone." He signs off by imploring users to notify him if they can find a single rogue site that's flagged on the iPhone.

Researchers at Mac security provider Intego report the same finding. "We find it interesting that Apple has added this feature, but we're confused as to why it simply does not work," they write.

To be fair, the iPhone isn't the only smartphone that fails to warn users when they're about to visit a phishing site. But as far as we can tell, Apple is the only manufacturer claiming to protect users from the threat. The issue here is the empty promise of a phishing filter, which gives users a false sense of security. ®

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