According to the APWG’s new Phishing Activity Trends Report, after spiking in the spring, phishing has been taking place at a steady pace — but phishers are using new techniques to carry out their attacks – and obfuscate their origins – to make the most of every phishing campaign.
The total number of phish detected by APWG in Q3 2018 was 151,014. This was down from 233,040 in Q2 and 263,538 in Q1. There was an unusual rash of phishing in the spring of 2018, and the amount of phishing in Q3 was a return to the kind of levels seen through 2017. But while the number of attacks subsided, APWG’s contributing researchers noticed ways in which phishers have been making their attacks more effective and harder to detect.
Phishers are increasingly using web page redirects as a way of hiding their phishing sites from detection. When victims click on links in phishing emails, redirects take the user on an unwitting journey through other sites before arriving at the phishing site itself. And then once the victim submits his or her credentials, still more redirects make take the victim to yet another domain.
The researchers at APWG member PhishLabs have observed that half of all phishing sites now use SSL encryption, which can fool users into thinking that a site is safe to use, for example, by virtue of the green lock symbol that appears in the browser address bar when SSL encryption is enabled. Some of the increase comes from phishers adding HTTP encryption to their phishing sites – a technique that turns a security feature against the victims.
APWG contributor RiskIQ analyzed where phishing falls in the domain name space, and found that certain top-level domains have notable amounts of phishing in them, both in absolute and relative terms. Some of this phishing is attributable to phishers who register in top-level domains that offer domain names for free.