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Report: Social Networking Phishing Attacks Up More Than 240%

U.S. extends its lead as No. 1 country hosting phishing attacks, according to MarkMonitor's new brandjacking report

Social networks are increasingly becoming a favorite method of attack for phishers as they look for more efficient ways to reach potential victims, according to a newly released report.

Overall, phishing attacks rose 36 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to a sampling of banking brands used in MarkMonitor's Brandjacking Index report for January through April 2009. And more than 500 organizations worldwide were phished in the first quarter of this year, up 14 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, according to MarkMonitor.

Phishing attacks on social networking sites increased more than 240 percent compared to the same time last year, just behind attacks on payment services, which jumped a whopping 285 percent versus the first quarter of '08. "They exploit the trust one user has with another [on a social network]. There's a tendency to open up something from one of your 'friends' on these sites," says Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer at MarkMonitor. "This is the biggest innovation in phishing attacks since RockPHISH, and it's more social than technical exploitation. RockPHISH was an infrastructure play, but this is using someone else's infrastructure to spread the badness."

The good news, however, is that social networks are relatively quick to shut down phishing attacks on their sites, Felman says.

MarkMonitor's Felman says phishers typically grab a social networker's credentials via an email-borne or other attack, and then use their profile to email their friends within the social network. "Those emails within the social network direct [the victims] to an exterior site that seeks to duplicate the [social network's] login experience," for instance, he says. "So you may think you are on the social network, but you're not. These attacks are very clever."

Among the MarkMonitor's other findings: More than 7,400 cyber-squatted domains targeted four financial brands in its financial services sampling, and 10,000 phishing attacks were on those brands in the first quarter of this year. More than 40 percent of all phishing attacks in Q1 were against payment service providers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. still hosts the most phishing attacks, and its dubious distinction as the No. 1 phishing country grew compared to the past year, up from 36 percent to 46 percent, according to MarkMonitor. And interestingly, Canada is now at No. 2, home to 4.7 percent of all phishing attacks, followed by the Russian Federation (4.5 percent), France (4 percent), and Denmark (4 percent). Around 36 percent of phishing attacks come from "other" countries, the report says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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