A new study of antiphishing toolbars has come to a stark conclusion about their effectiveness: None of them\u00a0is any good.A week ago, a report from SmartWare told the world that Mozilla\u2019s Firefox 2.0 had the best antiphishing capabilities, while a month ago a report from 3Sharp claimed Microsoft\u2019s Internet Explorer 7.0 was tops.But however apparently independent their methodology, those reports were sponsored by the companies\u2014Mozilla and Microsoft\u2014that triumphed in each test, a fact that has undermined their reliability in many people\u2019s eyes.By contrast, the new study, "Finding Phish: An Evaluation of Anti-Phishing Toolbars," was conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, backed by organizations as worthily anodyne as the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Research Office.The study looked at\u00a010 browser toolbars: Microsoft Explorer 7, eBay, Google, Netcraft (Mozilla), Netscape, Cloudmark (Mozilla), EarthLink, Geotrust\u2019s TrustWatch, Stanford University\u2019s Spoofguard and McAfee\u2019s SiteAdvisor.Even the best of the bunch\u2014EarthLink, Netcraft, Google, Cloudmark and Explorer 7\u2014detected only 85 percent of fraudulent websites, a good but far from secure level of effectiveness. The rest scored under the 50 percent mark, with McAfee\u2019s SiteAdvisor unable to spot any."Overall, we found that the antiphishing toolbars that were examined in this study left a lot to be desired," the authors concluded. "Many of the toolbars we tested were vulnerable to some simple exploits as well."Most of the toolbars suffered to varying degrees from false positives, where legitimate sites were erroneously identified as being phishing sites. The researchers believed this to be almost as big a problem as missing a real phishing site because constant warnings about sites known to be OK might persuade users to ignore all warnings, even when correct.The inclusion of SiteAdvisor will likely attract the ire of McAfee, which was angered by the product\u2019s dreadful showing in a Microsoft-sponsored test of antiphishing toolbars carried out some weeks ago by consultancy 3Sharp. McAfee claimed after the event that the product was not intended to perform as an antiphishing filter, something still disputed by 3Sharp.Despite the academic thoroughness of their experiments, the researchers offered no explanation as to why McAfee\u2019s SiteAdvisor showed zero ability to spot antiphishing websites, an odd statistic even within the context of the other products\u2019 modest abilities. The fact that the software might not have had any antiphishing features\u2014regardless of how it had been described on its website\u2014doesn\u2019t appear to have dawned on the team.The researchers came up with a number of general observations about browser phishing security, the first and most obvious of which is to use all such filters with great care; no toolbar can spot all fraudulent sites to a high enough degree or reliability to make it a firm line of defense.The second point, referred to only obliquely, is that origin of the browser on which the filter is running\u2014the Mozilla-versus-Internet Explorer debate\u2014doesn\u2019t appear to make any odds. It is the effectiveness of the heuristics used to identify sites that matters, and the usability of software design from the point of view of the users themselves.-John E. Dunn, Techworld.com (London)Related Links:\nMozilla-Funded Study: Firefox 2 Tops IE 7 in Antifraud\nMozilla Firefox 2.0 Hits the Web\nMicrosoft Internet Explorer 7 Browser ReleasedCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.