McAfee updates target 'phishing'

New versions of the company's antispam service and personal firewall software aim to hook phishers, as online fraud continues to grow.

McAfee has released updates to its spam prevention service and personal firewall software to help home users combat the growing form of online fraud known as "phishing."

The new version of SpamKiller, released Tuesday, uses a multilayered filtering engine that's designed to keep in-boxes free of unsolicited, fraudulent and malicious e-mails, including those used as part of phishing scams, the company said. The filter is based on Bayesian technology, which learns from past examples to determine which kinds of e-mails should be blocked. The filter also can detect codes hidden inside e-mail images that are used to evade antispam engines.

Phishing starts with a forged e-mail that looks like it comes from a legitimate company like Citibank or eBay, telling the recipient that his or her account information has expired--or something of the sort. It then lures the recipient to a bogus Web site and deceives him or her into divulging personal data.

Nearly 2 million Americans have given personal information to fraudulent sites, according to McAfee, and more than 1 million more may have fallen victim to phishing scams without realizing it.

"It is well reported that more than 90 percent of all phishing attacks happened within the last year alone, which tells us that home users need to be more educated and aware of what these scams are and how they can protect themselves and their families against this growing threat," Bill Kerrigan, senior vice president at McAfee, said in a statement.

The security software maker said it will include phishing scanning and detection in its regularly published updates. Such alerts will be automatically released for customers who use SpamKiller.

Also Tuesday, the company released Personal Firewall Plus 2005, which features intrusion prevention technology and aims to prevent threats from reaching the computer user. It is designed to monitor PCs for unusual patterns of behavior to help protect home users against identity theft, hackers and worms. McAfee said the firewall helps block unauthorized communication into and out of home PCs.

Personal Firewall Plus is available for an annual subscription rate of US$39.99, and SpamKiller costs US$34.99 per year. Both products can be downloaded from the company's Web site.

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