Microsoft will not wait for the launch of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) before bringing out a phishing filter that works with the MSN Toolbar, as previously thought.
The company announced on Wednesday that the feature, which had been widely discussed in the context of the launch of IE7 next year, would now be available in a preliminary version in the next few weeks.
A Microsoft spokesman told ZDNet UK the company will "will soon expand protection to customers through a beta of the Microsoft Phishing Filter for MSN Search Toolbar, and potential other delivery vehicles in the future," the spokesman said.
The filter, which should identify and block malicious Web sites that try and trick users into revealing bank account details and other personal information, will be available "in the coming weeks", and will also be included in IE7.
The Microsoft spokesman insisted that this "did not reflect a change in strategy", adding that "this is the first week that we're starting to talk about the availability of the Microsoft Phishing Filter for MSN Tool Bar".
The spokesman added that Microsoft plans to introduce "multiple technologies to help prevent phishing across email and at the browser level."
Last month, in an interview with ZDNet UK, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist, Peter Cullen, identified phishing as a major area of focus for Microsoft.
"We are focusing on phishing," he said, "but it is still part of the spam problem. As we block spam reaching the user's mailbox, it becomes one less way of launching a phishing attack, which can also lead to identity theft."