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Report: Phishing Hits All-Time High

Average number of attacks per organization jumped 62 percent in 2009, social networks more in the bull's eye
Phishing attacks increased more than 60 percent from 2008 to an all-time high as the number of attacks per organization hit nearly 600, a new report finds.

MarkMonitor's 2009 BrandJacking Index report, released this week, shows 565,502 phishing attacks last year, up 62 percent from 2008, and attackers have become more targeted given only 33 percent of the victims were first-time phishing targets.

Attacks targeting social networks increased by 376 percent from 2008, with 11,240 attacks -- about 2 percent of all phishing exploits last year. Most phishing attacks are hosted in the U.S. -- 44.7 percent, an increase from 36.5 percent in 2008.

"A lot of the attacks were on large financial organizations...we also saw that phishing targeting payment services grew," says Fred Felman, CMO at MarkMonitor.

The attacks are more targeted overall, he says. "Phishers employ a lot of the same tactics marketing people do, and they monitor statistics," such as how many email messages they delivered, how many were opened, and how many resulted in click-throughs by the recipients, he says.

"They are targeting emails to folks at bigger institutions. If you know a bank has 40 million customers, you know the likelihood of your spam email to [succeed] is much than with a bank of 20,000 to 30,000 customers."

Phishing against payment services firms grew 154 percent last year, and attacks on financial brands increased 36 percent, according to MarkMonitor's report.

Felman says the dramatic jump in phishing has a lot to do with phishers using botnets, especially in fast-flux networks. And social networks are becoming an attractive mark for phishers: "There's a treasure trove of data [in social networks]," he says.

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