May 6, 2010, 11:55 AM

Phishers hijack a record number of brands

Phishing attacks hijacked a record number of brands during Q4 of 2009, the Anti-Phishing Working Group says in its most recent report.

Cyber criminals used a record number of brands in phishing e-mails during the fourth quarter of 2009, reaching a high of 356 in October, up 4.4% from the previous record of 341 last August, the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a security industry organization, says in its most recent Phishing Activity Trends Report.

The report shows a mix of good and bad news, however. In Q4, for example, it notes that the number of hijacked brands used in phishing e-mails declined as the quarter progressed, to 306 in November and 249 in December.

Phishing is the criminal use of brands in e-mail messages to lure consumers to counterfeit web sites designed to trick consumers into revealing credit card account numbers and other confidential information that can be use in fraudulent online transactions.

The report also notes that there were 46,190 unique phishing web sites worldwide in December, down about 18% from a record high of 56,362 in August 2009. At the same time, the number of unique phishing attacks reported to the Anti-Phishing Working Group declined about 29% to 28,897 in December from a record high 40,621 in August.

Financial services web sites remained the most popular target, at 39% of phishing attacks. Other targeted industry segments included payment services, 33%; auctions, 13%; and retail, 2%. Another 13% were unidentified.

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