Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Phishing Continues Meteoric Rise

Phishing's chart is on a hockey-stick curve, and users are the ones getting pucked

Phishing continues to show off-the-chart growth, with few signs of slowing down, according to two market studies published this week.

The number of U.S. adults who have received phishing emails has nearly doubled since 2004, from 57 million to 109 million, according to a study from Gartner Inc. released yesterday. Financial losses stemming from phishing attacks have risen to more than $2.8 billion, the research firm says.

A separate report issued earlier this week by the U.K.'s Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS) confirms Gartner's conclusions. In the U.K., the number of reported phishing incidents has skyrocketed from 312 in the first half of 2005 to 5,059 in the first half of 2006.

"The good news is that, this year, fewer people think they lost money to phishers, but when they did lose, they lost more," said Avivah Litan, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The average loss per victim nearly quintupled between 2005 and 2006."

Phishers prefer to attack high-income adults earning more than $100,000 per year, according to the Gartner study. Those with six-figure incomes reported receiving an average of 112 phishing emails in the past year, compared to an average of 74 across all income brackets, Gartner says. High-income adults also lost more money from phishing attacks: an average of $4,362, almost four times as much as other victims, the research firm says.

Most of the attacks over the past year have been targeted at online banking customers. According to the APACS study, U.K losses from phishing were approximately $27.7 million in the first half of 2005; that figure rose to almost $43 million in the first half of 2006.

And the attacks are becoming more creative, Litan says. "Cyber-criminals are starting to shift away from attacking online banks directly, and they are leveraging less conventional brands and/or using hard-to-detect social engineering methods to reap financial gains," she says. For example, many attackers are impersonating other entities that use banking information, such as PayPal and eBay, she says.

Phishing defenses are getting better, but they still aren't stopping the attacks, Litan says. "Countermeasures such as phishing detection and take-down services deployed by banks, ISPs, and other service providers are obviously not sufficiently widespread or effective," she observes.

Upgrades to browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox haven't helped much, either. "Many of the browser upgrades are still incomplete and immature in terms of protections afforded," Litan says. "For at least two more years, phishing attacks will continue to increase, since it’s still a lucrative business for the perpetrators."

And enterprises will find these attacks difficult to stop, Litan warns. "The anti-phishing measures some enterprises have put in place to protect their brand and their consumers are not working. Phishers are moving from site to site to launch their attacks more quickly than ever. The average life of phishing sites has gone from one week a couple years ago to about one hour in 2006.

"Within a year or so, phishing sites may be user specific -- that is, a single site will be set up to launch a phishing attack against a single user. It’s no wonder the detection services can’t keep up with these rapid criminal movements."

Both APACS and Gartner said the most effecive means of preventing phishing losses is to teach users not to open emails from untrusted sources. APACS also advises to consumers to type in their URLs, rather than using links, and to shop at SSL-enabled sites.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How to Better Secure Your Microsoft 365 Environment
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/25/2021
Attackers Leave Stolen Credentials Searchable on Google
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-28
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2020-35128. Reason: This candidate is a reservation duplicate of CVE-2020-35128. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2020-35128 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to preve...
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-28
A cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the assets component of Mautic before 3.2.4 allows remote attackers to inject executable JavaScript through the Referer header of asset downloads.
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-28
An issue was discovered on Accfly Wireless Security IR Camera 720P System with software versions v3.10.73 through v4.15.77. There is an unauthenticated stack-based buffer overflow in the function CNetClientManage::ServerIP_Proto_Set during incoming message handling.
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-28
An issue was discovered on Accfly Wireless Security IR Camera System 720P with software versions v3.10.73 through v4.15.77. There is an unauthenticated heap-based buffer overflow in the function CNetClientTalk::OprMsg during incoming message handling.
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-28
An issue was discovered on Accfly Wireless Security IR Camera System 720P with software versions v3.10.73 through v4.15.77. There is an unauthenticated stack-based buffer overflow in the function CNetClientGuard::SubOprMsg during incoming message handling.