Spear phishing aimed at high-value targets increases

Spear phishing aimed at high-value targets increases

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) released its Q4, 2009 Phishing Activity Trends Report, which reveals that eCrime syndicates are expanding the base of brands they exploit for online fraud far beyond major financial institutions and online merchants, with the number of hijacked brands reaching a record 356 in October, up nearly 4.4 percent from the previous record of 341 in August 2009.

“No brand is safe from the threat of spoofing for the purposes of online fraud,” says APWG Secretary General Peter Cassidy. “Once, only the largest banks were targeted. Now, every kind of enterprise from banks and credit unions of all sizes to charities to, in a recent case, a hardware manufacturer, are now seeing their brands exploited in all manner of fraud scheme.’

While the number of unique phishing reports submitted to the APWG in Q4 declined nearly 29 percent, the statistics obscure a more troubling trend: a substantial increase in phishing focused on high-value targets such as personnel with treasury authority.

“Spear-phishing and whale-phishing, where targeted individuals inside of corporations, or of high net worth, appears to be increasing,” says APWG Chairman Dave Jevans. “Phishers and malware attackers are sending emails to individuals in a highly targeted fashion, attempting to gain access to corporate online banking systems, corporate VPN networks, and other online resources. These attacks do not contribute significantly to the overall number of unique phishing emails that are sent, as they are not using broad-based spam. Rather, the attackers customize their email messages to target individual users,’ Jevans said.

Other report findings:

  • October’s high of 46,522 unique phishing websites detected by the APWG was down 18 percent from the August, 2009 record high of 56,362
  • The number of unique brand-domain pairs rose to a quarter high of
    23,380 in October, still down 4 percent from the all-time high of 24,438 in August, 2009
  • There was an increase in rogueware variations of 36 percent in Q4
    (252,025), up from Q3 (158,980)
  • The total number of infected computers dropped to 10,305,805 in Q4, representing more than 47.8% percent of the total sample of scanned computers, the lowest infection rate recorded in 2009.

To read the report, go here.