Phishing attacks jump 19pc as social networks spread – report

30 Oct 2012

Global phishing attacks increased by 19pc during the first half of this year and the popularity of social networks has helped cyber-criminals steal more information, the RSA’s latest fraud report suggests.

In the report, RSA, the security division of IT storage hardware solutions provider EMC, identified 35,440 phishing attacks launched worldwide last month, marking a 28pc decrease from August.

Most of the decrease is down to fewer phishing campaigns launched against a series of European financial institutions which have accounted for significant increases in attacks over recent months.

Last month, phishing attacks targeted 314 brands globally, marking an 8pc rise from August.

Increases in the number of brands attacked suggests cyber-criminals are casting wider nets at organisations that may not be as well protected or are less familiar with the threat.

Top 5 countries for phishing attacks

In terms of specific countries, phishing attacks targeted the US, UK, Australia, India and Brazil the most last month.

In the US, there has been a 10pc increase in attacks at nationwide banks, accounting for about three out of every four attacks.

RSA estimates that phishing has cost organisations more than €1.6bn in potential losses over the past 18 months.

“Phishing is, in a sense, nothing more than the old confidence trick, only nowadays the deception happens online,” said Jason Ward, EMC’s country manager for Ireland.

“Preying on human emotion is as primal a tactic as it gets and it keeps phishing alive. Beyond luring victims with greed (awards and winnings-themed phishing emails) or anxiety (your-account-will-be-blocked-titled phishing scams), phishing preys on trust in more ways than one. Where better would one find trust than among people who know one another – on a social networking site,” Ward said.

Facebook membership alone has increased nearly 10 times since 2008, and Twitter shows that membership has increased by a factor of five over the same period.

“Cybercrime follows the money and, as user behaviour shifts, fraudsters have been following their target audience to the virtual world’s hot spots. We need to ensure we stay alert to new threats, and equip ourselves with the defence technology that could save us millions of euro,” said Ward.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic