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Phishing fraudsters aim to outpace site shutdowns

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Cybercrooks have developed new techniques in response to increasingly aggressive moves to identify and shut down known phishing sites. In a move designed to ensure potential phishing victims always link to a live website, fraudsters have developed so-called "smart redirection" attacks.

Emails that form the basis of phishing attacks pose as security messages from online banks in an attempt to dupe a tiny proportion of recipients who happen to be customers of the bank, into visiting a bogus site and handing over account information.

Smart redirection attacks involve creating a number of similar phishing websites based at different locations. Bogus emails that form the basis of phishing attacks contain URLs that direct the victim to a single IP address, which hosts the so-called 'smart redirector'. When the potential victim clicks on the link, the redirector checks all related phishing websites, identifying which sites are still live before redirecting the user to one of them.

The attack was discovered by researchers at the RSA Cyota Anti-Fraud Command Centre. So far two attacks on two different banks, one based in the UK and the other in Canada, have been detected.

RSA Cyota senior product manager Andrew Moloney said: "As anti-phishing vendors become more adept at shutting down phishing websites, inevitably the fraudsters are looking at ways to minimise the effect this has on their hit rates. Analysing which websites are still live - and seamlessly redirecting users to them - seems like a good way to raise the stakes. These phishing emails look no different to any other: all the action takes place behind the scenes, so as always users need to remain vigilant."

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, almost 50,000 phishing websites were created last year, with more than 7,000 appearing in December alone. ®

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