March 15, 2010, 12:00 AM

Criminals are stepping up their online attacks against luxury brands

Online attacks against luxury brands rose 23% year over year in 2009, as criminals stepped up their use of techniques that lure consumers to illegitimate sites to steal information such as credit card account numbers, according to a new report.

 

Online attacks against luxury brands rose 23% year over year in 2009, as criminals stepped up their use of techniques that lure consumers to illegitimate luxury retail sites to steal information such as credit card account numbers and passwords, MarkMonitor, a provider of online brand protection technology and services, says in its latest Brandjacking Index report.

“In these times more consumers are willing to take a chance on a discount on a luxury item and fraudsters are capitalizing on that fact,” says Frederick Felman, MarkMonitor chief marketing officer.

Apparel and media brands suffered the second-highest increase in attacks last year, each up 14% over 2008; attacks against consumer packaged goods brands rose 13%.

Across all types of web sites, cybersquatting was the most common form of online abuse for the third consecutive year with 892,769 reported attacks in 2009, an 8% increase over 2008, MarkMonitor says. Cybersquatting is when criminals use company trademarks in their Internet domain names, such as creating a site called AmazonCorp.com to persuade consumers they are actually dealing with Amazon.com Inc. That helps them divert consumers to illegitimate sites to steal information like payment card accounts that can be used to conduct fraudulent e-commerce transactions.

Phishing attacks, which typically use e-mail and hijacked brands to get consumers to reveal confidential financial account data, reached a new high with 565,502 reported instances, according to the report. Phishing attacks on social networks saw significant growth in 2009, even though they only represented 2% of all such attacks; phishing attacks on social networks increased 464% year over year in the fourth quarter.

“Social networks are where people are spending their time,” says Felman. “And people are unimaginative with their passwords. So getting their user ID and password on the social network can give a criminal access to that person’s bank, online retailer and countless other accounts.” Moreover, he adds, with social networks holding a vast amount of information about an individual, compromising an individual’s social network account could also enable criminals to assume a person’s identity or find information about a person’s network of friends.

The report notes that the U.S. had the lion’s share of online attacks in 2009 with 69% of all reported attacks. Germany and the U.K. were next, with 7% and 5%, repectively, MarkMonitor says.

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