Messaging security manufacturer, CipherTrust, has launched a free online service to alert organisations about potential phishing scams.

PhishRegistry.org hosts a repository of known phishing scams and alerts registered users to sites that may threaten customer data or financial operations.

"When email first emerged in the business market it was a wonderful tool," said CipherTrust regional sales manager, Bob Jones. "Unfortunately it's been exploited over the years by spam and now phishing."

PhishRegistry.org monitors legitimate Web sites and evaluates them against suspected fraudulent sites to determine potential threats that target specific businesses. If a threat is detected, alert emails are dispatched so businesses can then execute the proper procedures to inform customers.

Users can register their own Web sites, as well as other legitimate sites that they may use to help ensure sensitive information is protected.

The software behind PhishRegistry.org relies upon CipherTrust's global deployment of over 5,000 messaging security appliances that act as sensors for the company's database of known threats. "Each one of our devices participates in looking up information and passing statistics that are used to give our trusted global database its knowledge," Jones said.

He said the possibility of PhishRegistry mistaking a legitimate site for a phoney one was very low and that the real issue was of the percentage of fraudulent sites found. "Effectively, when we see phishing emails hit any of those thousands of sensors in the world we can look up our database and alert affected businesses."

Jones said phishing emails have become so pervasive that customers were losing faith in electronic communication methods. "Customers just don't trust email anymore," he said. "PhishRegistry is about helping email to continue to work as a trusted form of business communication."