February 18, 2004, 12:00 AM

Phishing e-mail fraud rises 52% in January, report says

January saw a 52% increase in the number of unique types of "phishing" e-mail attacks, to 176 from 116 in December, Tumbleweed Communications Corp. and the Anti-Phishing Working Group report.

January saw a 52% month-to-month increase in the number of unique spoofed or "phishing" e-mail attacks, to 176 from 116 in December, Tumbleweed Communications Corp. and the Anti-Phishing Working Group report. Phishing attacks rely on spoofed messages that are made to appear to come from retailers, banks and other legitimate businesses in an effort to get recipients to divulge their credit card data and other personal information.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group estimates that up to 5% of recipients respond to the spoofed messages, resulting in identify theft and fraudulent financial transactions. It said the average number of phishing attacks per day in January was 5.7, though the number peaked at 7.1 per day in the third week of January. Each attack goes out to millions of e-mail addresses.

The Working Group added that the 8% of reported phishing attacks took advantage of the recently patched hole in the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser that had allowed attackers to disguise their web site addresses.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group figures that each unique phishing attack hits about 1 million e-mail inboxes. By that formula, it figures there were 176 million attacks on individiual e-mail addresses, up from 116 million in December.

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