Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


A Secure Channel for Customers

A startup is developing the means to bypass phishers and hackers with a secure link to clients

For about $75, an attacker can buy a kit that provides all of the templates, logos, and procedures needed to launch a phishing attack on the customers of a specific bank. In response, some banks have simply stopped interacting with customers via email.

"Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face," says Joe Sowerby. "That's a pretty important avenue of communication to lose because of security concerns."

Sowerby is the CEO of a new company, Armored Online, that has developed a way to help banks -- and other enterprises -- set up one-to-one, secure email, and browser services for its customers. The company will begin delivering software that creates a closed link between the enterprise and the end user -- a "private channel" -- later this month, officials say.

A privately-held startup just beginning to emerge from stealth mode, Armored Online will initially target the banking and financial services industry, where phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks have caused some customers to lose their trust in online transactions, Sowerby says. But the company's software and services could eventually be used to create a trusted link between any enterprise and its end users, partners, or customers.

"We want to tackle the phishing problem first, particularly in the banking and financial services space," Sowerby says.

In a nutshell, Armored Online will provide enterprises with services and software that allow them to distribute a secure client to their end users. The client includes email encryption via PKI, a hardened browser that works via SSL, digital signatures, digital certificates, and out-of-band authorization and authentication. The client software, which can be distributed over a standard Web connection, can interface only with the servers and applications owned by the enterprise.

The secure connection will enable banks and other institutions to exchange email with customers, or conduct secure Web sessions that don't use public email or off-the-shelf browsers, making it much more difficult for phishers or attackers to insinuate themselves into communications between the company and the customer, Armored Online says.

"The public email system has become a polluted river," Sowerby says. "So what we're doing is digging a well."

Armored Online hopes to help financial institutions rebuild the trust of online customers, who no longer trust the email they receive. A recent Gartner study reports that about 85 percent of users delete any email claiming to be from a financial institution, including legitimate messages.

Under Armored Online, customers will download a "small" application that will reside on their desktops for interaction with their bank or other supplier, Sowerby says. By clicking on an icon, they invoke all of the secure applications, ensuring that their communication with that institution is encrypted and secured.

A number of banks tried this approach back in the '90s, when online commerce first became popular, Sowerby says. They issued their own software to customers, and sometimes provided a secure dial-up link. But the software was difficult to distribute -- it usually was mailed out on disk -- and financial institutions found it difficult to manage the huge modem banks required to support their large customer bases.

With the Armored Online service, banks will have the advantage of using the Internet for widespread access and software deployment, but the new software will enable them to create a one-to-one connection with the customer, Sowerby notes.

There are services that offer some of the same capabilities. Goodmail, for example, is one of several services that offer low-cost, encrypted email. Passmark, which provides two-factor authentication for Bank of America and others, offers the means to ensure that the bank and the customer are who they say they are.

Armored Online hopes to make hay by building those capabilities, and others, into a single set of software and services. Sowerby declined to give technical details on the client software or exact pricing, but he did say the products will be priced at least partly by the number of clients involved.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Healthcare Industry Sees Respite From Attacks in First Half of 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  8/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: It's a technique known as breaking out of the sandbox kids.
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
ABBYY network license server in ABBYY FineReader 15 before Release 4 (aka allows escalation of privileges by local users via manipulations involving files and using symbolic links.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, has an out-of-bounds read in njs_json_stringify_iterator in njs_json.c.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, allows control-flow hijack in njs_value_property in njs_value.c. NOTE: the vendor considers the issue to be "fluff" in the NGINX use case because there is no remote attack surface.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An Uncontrolled Search Path Element (CWE-427) vulnerability in SmartControl version 4.3.15 and versions released before April 15, 2020 may allow an authenticated user to escalate privileges by placing a specially crafted DLL file in the search path. This issue was fixed in version 1.0.7, which was r...
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Lua through 5.4.0 allows a stack redzone cross in luaO_pushvfstring because a protection mechanism wrongly calls luaD_callnoyield twice in a row.