Phishers Target Record Number of Brand Websites: APWG Report

The Anti-Phishing Working Group reports that the number of brands targeted by phishers—as well as the number of phishing Websites— hit an all-time high during the first quarter of 2012.

A new report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) found that the number of brands targeted by phishing reached an all-time high during February and March.

According to the group's Q1 2012 Phishing Activity Trends Report, the number of brands targeted by phishers hit 392 during both months. The 392 brands represent an increase of 8 percent from the previous all-time high of 362, recorded last December. The number of phishing Websites also hit record levels during the quarter, hitting a high of 56,859 during February.

Financial Services continued to be the most-targeted industry sector for phishers in the first quarter of 2012, representing 38.1 percent of the organizations targeted in attacks. Perhaps not surprisingly, the payment services industry was the second highest, coming in at 21.5 percent.

€œPhishing measurements are up across the board, with one of the biggest increases we have ever seen in a single quarter,€ said Ihab Shraim, chief information security officer at MarkMonitor, in a statement. €œ[W]e also observed the payment services category returning to its position as the second-most-popular phishing sector and large increases in activity in the social networking, ISP, and government sectors, too.€

In the first three months of 2012, PandaLabs€”the research arm of Panda Security€”identified more than six million unique malware samples. Of these new malware samples were 80 percent Trojans, also setting a new record, according to the group.

During the period covered by the report, the United States retained the top spot when it comes to nations hosting phishing-based sites. In March, Azerbaijan cracked the top 10 of that ranking for the first time ever, coming in at number four behind the U.S., France and China.

Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs and APWG Trends Report contributing analyst noted in the report that the growth in Trojans has replaced the massive worm epidemics of the past.

Overall, the average number of infected PCs across the globe is 35.51 percent, three percentage points lower than in 2011. China continues to be the most affected country, with 54.10 percent of infected PCs. It remains the only country with an infection ratio that is more than 50 percent. Following China on the list of most infected countries is Taiwan (47.15 percent) and Turkey (42.75 percent). The least infected countries were largely European nations. Sweden came in with the lowest rate with less than 18 percent.

€œThe reach and ambition of cyber-crime gangs advances apace today, a decade on from when the first phishing attacks were reported," said APWG Secretary General Peter Cassidy, in a statement. "In the first quarter of the year, reports received by the APWG indicate new record highs in the numbers of attacks on identifiable brands, the numbers of phishing Websites to lure Web users€”and in the proportion of malware executables comprised of advanced Trojans for cyber-crime.€