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Off the Hook?

Phishing has been one of those technology topics that keeps popping up in the popular press as consumers are conned into providing all their personal details to fake banking or government sites. This social-engineering exploit (and it is social engineering since most people willingly provide their information) is becoming better known among consumers, and a lack of trust is the last thing e-commerce needs right now.

I'm beginning to see products designed to increase customer trust in the sites they visit. Last week I spent some time on the phone with folks from GeoTrust talking about their TrustWatch product, a free IE add-in toolbar that provides green, yellow, or red indicators based on the relative trustworthiness of the site. Now, theirs is a fairly simple process of determining the color of the light; if there is a valid security certificate, then the light is green, no certificate with no other negative points is yellow (www.nwc.com shows up as a yellow site), and known bad sites or those whose behavior violates certain rules turn up as red sites.

I'm not a huge fan of IE toolbar plug-ins, but this one is fairly unobtrusive, and it does its stated job pretty well. Until we figure out how to shut down phishing sites entirely, products like this one may be a solid step towards making consumer breathe a little easier when they spend their money on-line.