February 14, 2005

Microsoft, eBay, and Visa joined forces Monday to launch a program to share information about phishing attacks.

The Phish Report Network, a database run by WholeSecurity, an Austin, Texas-based developer of anti-virus and anti-phishing solutions, is available now, and can be used by any company to report the bogus Web sites associated with phishing attacks.

Companies that subscribe to the network can access the database or receive real-time notifications of phishing sites. The idea is to give potential phishing targets an immediate heads-up so that they can notify customers, attempt to shut down those sites, or block them. Other companies, such as anti-spam software suppliers or Internet service providers, can join the group to receive notifications that they then roll into their spam defenses or site-blocking tools.

"Phishing is the fastest-growing segment of spam being sent worldwide today, victimizing both legitimate online companies whose brands are being hijacked and consumers who are unwittingly providing their personal information to criminals," said Ryan Hamlin, Microsoft's general manager of its safety technology group, in a statement. "The data that the Phish Report Network will provide can help Microsoft better defend our millions of users worldwide against these nefarious phishing attacks."

Other companies that announced participation in the network -- eBay and its payment affiliate PayPal, and credit card company Visa -- have been the target of numerous phishing scams.

The Phish Report Network database is up and running now. Companies can sign up by visiting the network's Web site.