Antivirus software company Symantec said on Wednesday that it joined a group devoted to fighting online identity theft attacks known as "phishing scams."
The company announced that it was joining the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an association of Internet service providers, technology vendors and law enforcement officials dedicated to identifying and thwarting phishing attacks.
Phishing scams are online crimes that use unsolicited commercial, or "spam," e-mail to direct Internet users to Web sites controlled by thieves, but are designed to look like legitimate e-commerce sites. Users are asked to provide sensitive information such as a password, bank account or credit card number, often under the guise of updating account information.
Symantec joined the APWG as a "premium" member, entitling the company to a seat on the group's steering committee and allowing its representatives to participate in APWG sub-groups, meetings and technology trials. Symantec also receives access to the APWG's repository of information on phishing scams, according to the APWG Web site. (See: http://www.antiphishing.org.)
In a statement, Symantec cited a recent consumer survey it conducted that found that 42.5 percent of consumers are very concerned about online fraud. A majority of those surveyed reported changing the way they use the Internet because of their concerns about fraud, with 32 percent saying that they don't use the Internet for online banking, Symantec said.
Symantec is the first major antivirus company to sign up with the group, said Peter Cassidy, secretary general of the APWG.
The addition of Symantec underscores the growing connections between identity theft scams and malicious code such as viruses, worms and Trojan horse programs, he said.
Symantec will bring scientists and engineers with expertise in malicious code to the group, which is studying the use of so-called "malware" in phishing attacks, he said.
The APWG has been talking with Symantec about joining for months, and other large antivirus companies may soon join the group, as well, Cassidy said.