01:33 PM

Phishing Attackers Diversify, Target Facebook Credentials

FBI warns of surge in spear-phishing attacks, says criminals seek more than bank credentials.

The FBI issued a warning Tuesday to consumers to beware a surge in spear-phishing attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property, financial credentials and personal information, often for the purposes of faking someone's identity. Separately, a security firm warned that in the past year, the volume of phishing attacks more than tripled.

Increasingly, fake -- but often real-looking -- phishing emails come personalized. "Often, the e-mails contain accurate information about victims obtained via a previous intrusion or from data posted on social networking sites, blogs, or other websites," said the bureau's warning. "This information adds a veneer of legitimacy to the message, increasing the chances the victims will open the email and respond as directed."

Internet users today are much more likely to encounter a phishing website than even just two years ago. According to Google's Transparency Report, as of June 9 the search service detected 108,225 phishing sites, up from the 9,264 it detected on May 23, 2010.

[ Mozilla plans to start blocking some tracking cookies in its Firefox browser. Read more: Firefox Advances Do Not Track Technology. ]

Spear-phishing awareness campaigns notwithstanding, the attacks are notoriously difficult for businesses to block. Victims have included security firm RSA, the White House and numerous defense contractors.

As the quantity of attacks has increased, so has the list of targeted data. Historically, many phishing attacks launched for criminal purposes have focused on stealing financial details from consumers and businesses so that gangs could drain money from bank accounts. But today, just 20% of all phishing attacks were disguised to look like they've come from a legitimate financial services organization, according to Kaspersky Lab's recently released report, "The Evolution of Phishing Attacks."

Kaspersky Lab's report is based on data gathered anonymously -- between May 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013 -- from 50 million individual Windows users. Comparing data gathered in that timeframe to the prior 12 months, the security firm found that the number of distinct phishing attack sources tripled, and that 87% more people were targeted than before.

Of all the sites emulated by attackers, 30% were search and email services, followed by social networks (20%), banks and financial institutions (12%), IT company sites (8%), gaming sites (7%), online shopping and auction (7%) and payment services (6%). In the United States, the site most often emulated by phishing attackers was Yahoo, followed by Facebook, Google,, Wow-Europe, Microsoft, AOL, American Express, an unnamed bank and Twitter.

According to the study, the people most often targeted by phishing attacks resided in Russia, the United States, India, Vietnam and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the majority of phishing attacks were launched from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and India.

The FBI recommends that anyone who falls victim to a phishing attack file a complaint with its Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-09
The Telephony component in Apple OS X before 10.11, when the Continuity feature is enabled, allows local users to bypass intended telephone-call restrictions via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Safari Extensions implementation in Apple Safari before 9 does not require user confirmation before replacing an installed extension, which has unspecified impact and attack vectors.

Published: 2015-10-09
The API in the WebKit Plug-ins component in Apple Safari before 9 does not provide notification of an HTTP Redirection (aka 3xx) status code to a plugin, which allows remote attackers to bypass intended request restrictions via a crafted web site.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Intel Graphics Driver component in Apple OS X before 10.11 allows local users to gain privileges or cause a denial of service (memory corruption) via unspecified vectors, a different vulnerability than CVE-2015-5877.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Login Window component in Apple OS X before 10.11 does not ensure that the screen is locked at the intended time, which allows physically proximate attackers to obtain access by visiting an unattended workstation.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.