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Email phishing attacks tarnish the reputations of targeted firms, according to a new UK survey. Two in five UK adults (42 per cent) quizzed feel that their trust in a brand would be "greatly reduced" if they received a phishing email purporting to represent it.

Despite this, the majority of respondents to YouGov's online survey reckon the responsibility for protection against phishing attacks lies with ISPs and individuals themselves, rather than the brands targeted by fraudulent emails.

One in four (26 per cent) of 1,960 adults surveyed reckon the main responsibility for protecting against phishing attacks lies with themselves, with a similar percentage (23 per cent) responding that their ISP ought to bear the brunt of filtering spam emails. A further (17 per cent) think the sender's ISP and email service provider holds the greatest responsibility in combating scam emails.

Phishing attacks commonly take the form of forged emails that attempt to trick consumers into disclosing their login credentials in response to bogus warnings that prospective marks need to respond to a "security check".

Many high street names have bought in technologies or developed internal systems to identify and take down websites associated with phishing attacks. Preventing fraudulent emails reaching users' inboxes in the first place would involve measures such as promoting free or discount security and email filtering packages.

The YouGov phishing survey was sponsored by anti-spam firm Cloudmark, which reports that .uk domains are the single most common target of phishing attack across Europe.

Security experts at ISPs said it was unfair for consumers to hold the targets of attacks responsible for the crud hitting their inboxes.

"Whilst awareness to the problem is essential, it is unrealistic to expect businesses to be able to secure themselves fully against such sophisticated criminal activities. The increasingly dynamic and transient nature of the latest threats requires a combination of desktop protection at the client level, and accurate message filtering from ISPs," said Nigel Stevens, product director at THUS.

Gone Vishing

Cloudmark reports that would-be fraudsters are taking advantage of VoIP systems to develop more convincing attacks. One recent email scam, for example, poses as a notification from a recipient's bank requesting that they ring customer services to deal with a problem.

"If the recipient makes the call, it gets routed to a cheap VoIP answering system, which may have been set-up on a compromised host," explained Neil Cook, UK technology chief at Cloudmark. "The system captures the user ID and pincode to sell on to the highest bidder, who then has full access to your account. All the while the call seems very genuine. The reassurance of speaking to an individual rather than working online will lead to many instances of consumers falling foul to such threats." ®

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