Microsoft’s anti-phishing filter for its MSN search toolbar is now available, but only for US users. Previously, it had been expected that the filter would not appear until the release of IE7, which is expected… whenever. Despite the fact that the filter is currently only for US customers, Microsoft will be expanding coverage in additional markets over the course of the next year.

The focus on phishing comes after at least one solid year of phishing woes for internet users. Its alarmingly common now to get a very authentic message from what appears to be eBay or PayPal, but is in fact from some Russian teenager. The problem is, phishing continues to be very successful, with a number of people still falling for it. The presentation of the phishing scam e-mails is also improving, with some very authentic looking layout, graphics and URLs being used in the latest ploys.

According to Microsoft the new filter will "proactively help protect the customer" when the customer enters a phishing site. The add-in uses "a dynamic system that quickly checks the Web pages customers visit" through an online service that is updated regularly. The filter will also block customers from entering personal data if the site is confirmed as suspicious, the company says.
The new anti-phishing filter works by comparing addresses of Web sites a consumer attempts to visit with a list of reported legitimate sites that is stored on the consumer's computer and updated periodically. It also does analysis on sites that people visit to look for common phishing behaviour, and there is also the option to check URLs against a frequently updated list of reported phishing sites. US customers can download the beta version of Microsoft Phishing Filter from here.