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OTA Fails Several Government Agencies, Retailers For Poor Online Security

The Online Trust Alliance calls out the DHS, FBI, White House, and others for not using email authentication on their Websites
Report cards went out this week in the security industry: The nonprofit Online Trust Alliance (OTA) says major federal agencies and retailers get an "F" when it comes to deploying email authentication on their Websites.

Around 56 percent of the main .gov sites, including those of the White House, FBI, Department of Treasury, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security, are not using proper email authentication to prevent phishing and other email fraud. Another 45 percent of the top online retailers are failing as well, including JCrew, Sears, Victoria's Secret, Gap, and Nordstrom.

The OTA issued the report cards as part of its latest analysis of the adoption of email authentication technologies SPF/Sender or DomainKeys Identified Email (DKIM), aimed at preventing phishing and other email-borne scams.

The OTA says many of the failing agencies and businesses have been hit by forged email scams and online fraud. "It is incomprehensible that in this period of escalating online scams and diminishing consumer confidence these agencies and businesses continue to sit on the sidelines," says Craig Spiezle, chairman and founder of the OTA. "Best practices not only need to be adopted by business, but also by governmental agencies. OTA members reiterate their willingness to provide resources and assistance to these organizations."

Some agencies and retailers, however, got good grades: The Census Bureau, CIA, Federal Trade Commission, FDIC, and Veterans Administration all "passed" thanks to their email authentication efforts. And Amazon, Apple, Costco, Dell, Office Depot, and Staples were among the brands that have improved their online security.

The OTA plans a similar grade report on Fortune 500 Websites, which it will present next week at the RSA 2009 Conference in San Francisco.

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