Phishing attacks remain high post-Christmas

IT security firm RSA has released new figures suggesting that criminals are heightening their efforts to target unsuspecting consumers in order to steal their personal data, with a 21 per cent rise in the number of phishing websites hijacking established brands to gain misplaced trust.

RSA said that in December 2009 a fifth more brand-based phishing sites appeared than in the previous month and in total 275 brands were mimicked by malicious hackers in the run up to Christmas, which is a new record within the industry.

Despite this news, it appears that in general the number of phishing attacks are actually growing at a slower rate than in the past, with a 3 per cent increase in the total number between November and December 2009 being far lower than the 17 per cent growth that was predicted for the year in whole.

The Global Online Consumer Security Survey that RSA commissions every year has shown that general awareness as to the dangers of phishing sites is increasing, with over 75 per cent of average internet users being wise to the most common tactics employed. This is up from around 33 per cent three years ago.

The UK is second in volume when the total number of phishing attacks are calculated, with the largest number of attacks being in the USA.

Phishing sites always rise dramatically in numbers during December as shoppers are targeted, but according to a recent report by Network Box the number is not abating as it usually does at the start of a new year. In excess of 50 per cent of the malicious emails posted over the last month were revealed to have contained links to phishing websites, indicating that the criminal fraternity is remaining persistent in its attempts to steal identities and harvest sensitive information from consumer’s computers.

Security analyst Simon Heron said that the UK’s emergence from the recession was causing more phishing sites to open their doors, as many people continue to look for bargain-basement deals on the internet with more interest in a low price than in the safety of their personal information.

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