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Facebook, Instagram Are Phishers' Favorite Social Platforms

Cloud companies continue to represent the most phishing URLs, but social media saw the most growth in Q1 2019.

Facebook phishing spiked 155.5% in the first quarter of 2019, pushing social media into the fourth most-popular category for phishing attacks. Instagram phishing URLs jumped 1,868%.

Social media saw more growth than any other phishing category evaluated in the Vade Secure "Phishers' Favorites" report for the first quarter of 2019, which shares the 25 most impersonated brands for each quarter. This is the first time it published a global report after seeing little change in top brands for North America and Europe in the previous three quarters.

Facebook was the top spoofed brand in the first quarter of 2018, and then dropped for three straight quarters, falling to No. 7 in the fourth quarter of 2018. Researchers aren't sure why it's now again appealing to hackers. One reason could be the rise of social sign-on using Facebook accounts, which attackers could use to view and compromise other apps people have authorized for Facebook login. Another theory involves Facebook's dubious security practices.

Instagram is an interesting target because, as researchers point out, phishing attacks targeting the brand were "virtually nonexistent" for three straight quarters before spiking in 2019. In early March, a phishing campaign tried to trick victims into providing credentials in exchange for a "verified" Instagram badge; analysts think these incidents drove the increase.

Microsoft was the top spoofed brand in the first quarter of 2019. Researchers attribute the trend to the high value of Office 365 credentials, which give intruders access to the Office 365 platform and let them commit a range of attacks: suspended account claims, malicious links, and fake OneDrive and SharePoint documents. PayPal came in second after phishing attacks rose 88% in the first quarter.

Cloud was the top category for phishing URLs. More than 40% of phishing links impersonated cloud services, down from 49.6% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Why the drop? Four of six cloud brands in the top 25 (Microsoft, Docusign, Adobe, Google) all saw quarter-over-quarter declines.

Read more details here.

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