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Phishing goes international

The lingua franca of fraud

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Infosec The number of phishing attacks targeting non-English speaking financial institutions is on the rise.

Attacks targeting countries outside the English-speaking world now represents almost 40 per cent of worldwide phishing targets, according to data processed by RSA Security's Anti-Fraud Command Centre. RSA said it has shut down more than 10,000 phishing attacks hosted in 70 different countries.

The primary phishing targets worldwide still remain English speaking countries such as the US and the UK, followed by Australia and Canada. The United States alone accounts for approximately half of fraudulent email attacks. Over the last six months or so there's been an upswing in attacks targeting European countries, including Spain, Germany and Italy, as well as the Netherlands, Scandinavia and France.

Emails are even being sent in local languages, such as Catalan, with fraudulent websites designed to circumvent protection mechanisms such as scratch cards with random access codes, or lists of one time transaction access numbers held by the bank's customers.

RSA says the trend is down to a combination of factors including an increase in the number of online banking users in Europe and Asia Pacific, banks offering increased functionality as part of online services, and heightened sophistication on the part of hackers. Phishers have already begun targeting smaller financial institutions. Lately, email fraudsters have widened their net still further by moving across borders and expanding their global reach.

Postings in online fraudster communities suggest a recent surge in demand for compromised credentials, referring to the users of various European banks. Crooks often seek to make it more difficult to take down fraudulent websites by hosting them in countries outside the region being targeted.

The origin of phishing attacks varies widely. Less than half the phishing attacks against UK punters originate in the US, with 20 per cent coming from Korea, seven per cent from Germany, and four per cent from the UK. In Spain, 37 per cent of phishing attacks are instigated in the US, 20 per cent in Germany, seven per cent in Korea, and five per cent in Japan.

RSA Consumer Solutions senior product manager Andrew Moloney said: "Crooks are looking for the next tier down with targeted attacks in specific languages. Fraudsters are essentially crooked entrepreneurs; they are constantly looking for the greatest return for the smallest investment, and financial institutions in relatively untapped markets with users unfamiliar with phishing attacks are an attractive target. Banks and customers who have been fortunate enough to avoid attracting the attention of the fraudsters so far now need to be on their guard and take preventative, proactive measures wherever possible." ®

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