New antiphishing shield serves up ads

Software displays a Yahoo search page, including sponsored ads, when surfing to a known phishing site or mistyping a Web address.
Written by Joris Evers, Contributor
A Denver start-up has come up with a way for Internet service providers to offer customers a phishing shield and make some money doing it.

ISPs can install software developed by Simplicita on their networks to display a Yahoo search page, including sponsored links and ads, to customers who attempt to surf to a known phishing site or mistype a Web address, the company announced Monday. The software, called NXD, is free, it said.

"Both Simplicita and the ISP get a cut of the revenue from Yahoo generated when users click on sponsored paid search links," a Simplicita representative said. "Several cable ISPs that we can't mention by name yet have installed this solution in their test labs and plan to roll it out as soon as testing is completed."

Phishing is a prevalent online scam that uses fraudulent Web sites and spam e-mail messages to trick people into giving up personal information such as credit card details and online banking credentials. The latest Web browsers include features to fight such scams, blocking known malicious sites based on a regularly updated blacklist.

The Simplicita approach is different than a browser filter or add-on, such as an antiphishing toolbar. But it is not new. San Francisco start-up OpenDNS offers a free address lookup service, which also blocks access to phishing sites independent of what browser or tools a user has installed on a PC.

Both Simplicita and OpenDNS block phishing schemes and correct obvious typos in URLs. Both also serve up a search page with ads if the user enters an address that doesn't exist or can't be corrected. That tactic is similar to one used in an unpopular VeriSign service called Site Finder, which was pulled soon after its launch in 2003.

Simplicita's NXD software can be configured by each individual user, which means that an ISP's customers can disable it and set their personal preferences, Simplicita said in a statement. The ads on Yahoo Search will be clearly labeled as sponsored links and shown alongside unpaid Web search results, it said.

NXD is also a pitch for Simplicita's flagship product, a for-pay botnet security system called ZBX that ISPs can also install on their networks. ZBX identifies and quarantines Internet users whose PCs have been turned into zombies. The infected subscribers are alerted and directed to remediation tools to remove the malicious software.

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