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TrustDefender debuts web-page fingerprinting in bank fraud fight

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Australian security firm TrustDefender is expanding into fraud detection with the release of software designed to spot banking Trojans that manipulate web sessions.

Variants of the ZeuS Trojan and other strains of malware use tricks such as installing phoney dialogue boxes when users log into online banking sites from malware-infected machines.

These so-called man-in-the browser attacks are designed to fool marks into handing over confidential data to fraudsters, such as bank card PINs or one-time login codes. Traditional antivirus software often struggles to quickly identify and block such tactics, which fraudsters employ as a means to get around two-factor authentication for bank logins.

TrustDefender Zero detects these attacks by comparing the content served from a server to the content as seen by a client to detect whether other components of a web page have been added along the way, a probable sign of malfeasance. Andreas Baumhof, CTO and co-founder of TrustDefender, told El Reg that the benefit of the approach is that it is device independent and works without the need to run blacklists or updating.

The technology doesn't rely on cookies, which means it works well if users log onto their banking website in the privacy mode enabled by modern browsers. However, it relies at least partly on JavaScript being enabled in order to run checks on whether webpages as served up are not altered once they reach a customer's computer.

"If you disable JavaScript the technology still looks at IP address and time-zone but it's not as strong as if JavaScript available," Baumhof said.

TrustDefender Zero also includes a device fingerprinting feature that is calculated on a user's PC but not stored there. The firm is looking to sell the technology to banks and e-commerce providers who would offer it to consumers as a means of minimising the risk of fraud.

The product adds to TrustDefender's existing TrustDefender Pro end-point protection software. This technology bundles a security dashboard (that warns end users if their anti-virus is not up to date, for example), whitelisting and memory forensics (to detect the presence of rootkits on client machines).

The software works by disabling any malware that might be present on a machine during the time an online banking transaction might be taking place.

Transaction security firm Trusteer tries to solve a similar problem with a slightly different approach, using client software that hooks into browsers. Trusteer has already signed up a large number of banks in Europe and the US while TrustDefender is at the early stages of its global expansion into these territories.

Ted Egan, CEO and co-founder of TrustDefender, said banks need a choice of software providers. "We're aiming to mix it up a bit", he said. TrustDefender is also targeting e-retailers, airlines and gambling sites with its technology, but its main focus (for now at least) is online banking.

In addition to unveiling TrustDefender Zero, the firm is also launching TrustDefender Central Intelligence Server. The technology, which bolts onto TrustDefender Pro, would sit in a bank's data centre and act to either warn customers or make them go through additional security checks if malware is detected on their systems.

These extra checks might involve sending a one-time login code in the form of an SMS message to a customer's pre-registered mobile number, for example. ®

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