A new free download has been developed to alert internet users to email phishing attacks and flag up offensive spam.
The TrustedSource Toolbar from CipherTrust is a free " reputation toolbar" that is claimed to be able to check the reputation of email senders around the world. Using the company's research and monitoring portal, CipherTrust said the toolbar can identify spam mailers and phishing email senders using known IP addresses and known spamming and phishing technqiues used in body copy in the email.
The company said no other information nor the content of the email is sent back to it so privacy is preserved.
Working with Lotus Notes and Outlook email applications, when a user clicks on an email received, the software runs a query against CipherTrust's servers. After analysing the trustworthiness of the email, the toolbar will flash a red, yellow or green icon.
A red, "frowning face" icon denotes spam or a phishing attack, while a green "happy face" means that the message comes from a reputable sender.
The company is also working on a browser version of the toolbar, according to a spokesman. This will work with web-based email services such as Hotmail or Gmail, and is currently in testing. A beta release is expected to be released in the next few months.
A similar tool to help consumers combat phishing attacks was launched last year by GeoTrust Europe. its TrustWatch Search application verifies websites rather than emails.
It is available as a search box within Geotrust's TrustWatch anti-phishing toolbar or as a standalone consumer search site.
All search results are given a rating and the application also uses a traffic light-style alert system.
Sites that can be verified by trusted third parties receive a green " verified" rating; sites that have not been verified, but are not known to be fraudulent, receive a yellow "not verified" rating.
The fact that a site has a yellow rating does not mean that it is fraudulent. Not every bona fide site is verified, this just advises caution. But known fraudulent sites display a red "warning" rating. A site report is also given to help consumers decide if they want to use a site.
At the moment the search tool is only available for Internet Explorer but the company said it plans to integrate it with other browsers in the future. The toolbar however can be downloaded and used on its own with any search engine such as Mozilla Firefox with a plug in.
The CipherTrust toolbar can be downloaded free from the company's website. The Geotrust application is available free online as well.