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Free and subdomain hosting lets phishing sites live longer

Chinese now cop flak as well as PayPal, Western banks

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A growing numbers of phishers are using free domains and subdomain to register net fraud sites, a move that seem to have allowed phishing sites to stay online longer.

Official figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) records that around 11 percent of all phishing attacks took advantage of either the free .TK domain registration service or the CO.CC subdomain service during 2H 2010.

The Group found that 11,768 phishing websites were hosted on subdomain services, up 42 per cent from the first half of 2010. The increased use of the sub-domain tactic seems to be designed to make it harder to get offending sub-domains taken down. As a result of this, in part, the time offended domains get to live has increased to a three year high.

Median uptimes exceeded 15 hours 19 min in 2H2010 compared to 13 hours 42 in the first half of 2010 and 11 hours 44 in the second half of 2009. Other stories have shown that the time phishing sites can stay online is closely linked to their short-term profitability.

Chinese e-commerce sites and banks are increasingly targeted in phishing attacks, a diversification from the usual target of PayPal and Western banks.

In total 67,677 phishing attacks were launched in 2H 2011, far more than the 48,244 recorded in the first half of last year but far less than the 126,697 recorded in 2H 2009 at the height of phishing on the Avalanche botnet. The increase between the first and second half of 2010 largest comes from new data about Chinese emails scam.

Phishing attacks are far from spread out uniformly over the web. Sixty percent of the attacks occurred against four TLDs: .COM, .NET, .TK, and .CC. Meanwhile 78 per cent of the world’s malicious domain registrations were made in just three TLDs: .COM, .TK, and .NE

Among the total of 42,624 phishing domains found in the study, APWG reckons 11,769 (28 per cent) were registered maliciously by the phishers. Of those, 6,382 were registered as part of attacks intended to trick Chinese users into handing over their net access credentials. The other 30,855 suspicious domains domains were made up of either hacked or compromised but otherwise legitimate websites. Malicious registrations took place on 56 TLDs, the APWG further reports.

Internet Identity CTO Rod Rasmussen is due to unveil the finding of the report (pdf) at the APWG Counter eCrime Operations Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia later on Wednesday. ®

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