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4/5/2012
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Phishers Use Web Analytics To Gauge Success

Attacker targeting South American bank gathered statistics on what worked and what didn't in major phishing campaign, RSA says

In yet another indication of cybercriminals operating more like a business, researchers have discovered a major phishing campaign that relied on Web analytics to hone its attack against a bank.

Researchers at RSA, the security division of EMC, say a phisher targeting a specific bank in South America used a free Web analytics tool to gather statistics on how his attacks performed and details about his victims' systems. He configured it like any other Web analytics service, using embedded JavaScript code on his Web page visited by victims who fell for the phishing attack. The code records data such as the number of "hits" on the page, as well as specifics like the user's operating system and browser type.

"Fraudsters are increasingly behaving like businessmen. They want to be able to measure how successful and effective their phishing/fraud campaigns are -- if the ROI is OK or needs improvement," says Mor Ahuvia, communications specialist for RSA's FraudAction Knowledge Delivery.

Ahuvia says the attacker can glean plenty of valuable information from Web analytics: traffic trends and intelligence on the best time to send out its spam phishing run. "Using Web analytics stats, they can get quite a bit of information: number of hits -- how credible was the spam email?; best time for blasting out their campaigns -- night/weekends?; pages viewed per visitor -- did the consumer go through the whole phishing kit?; success of a particular spam emailing list they've purchased; or the success of an underground spamming service they've paid for," she says.

The use of Web analytics is likely to catch fire among phishers and spammers, she says.

"This was the first time we have seen the inclusion of Web statistics in this phishing kit," Ahuvia says. "The underground economy is becoming more like the [legitimate] economy. The funny thing is that phishing for a very long time was looked down upon [as low-tech."

But phishers appear to be investing more money in their craft and are looking to measure the success of their phishing campaigns, she says.

Meanwhile, RSA's Monthly Online Fraud Report for February found the volume of phishing attacks decreased by 30 percent overall, with a total of 21,030 attacks identified by RSA.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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 ... View Full Bio

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