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The frequency of phishing attacks against UK internet users has tripled over the last 12 months, according to figures from Russian security software firm Kaspersky Lab.

Facebook, Yahoo! Google and Amazon are the websites most targeted by phishers in the UK, indicating a diversification away from the traditional target of phishing attacks - online banks - towards other targets such as social networks.

Together, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook and Amazon accounted for 30 per cent of phishing attacks.

Over 20 per cent of all phishing attacks worldwide mimicked banks and other financial organisations. The top 10 sites targeted in the UK include BT, PayPal and an unnamed bank.

More than half of the targets of phishing attacks (921 names out of 1,739 in the Kaspersky database) were fake copies of the websites of banks and other credit and financial organisations.

The UK is one of the most frequent targets of phishing attacks, along with Russia, the USA, India and Vietnam. The majority of the servers hosting phishing pages were registered in the USA, the UK, Germany, Russia and India.

The figures in Kaspersky Lab’s The evolution of phishing attacks report (PDF) are based on an analysis of data anonymously submitted by 50 million users of Kaspersky's cloud security services and products.

In the 12 months up to the end of April 2013, phishers launched attacks affecting an average of 102,100 people worldwide each day – twice as many as in 2011-2012. An estimated 3,000 users were attacked each day in the UK - three times as many as in 2011-2012.*

Phishing typically involves creating counterfeit copies of popular websites such as webmail services, internet banking and social networking sites. Cybercrooks try to lure potential victims to these rogue web pages, often under the guise of a security check, in a bid to trick them into entering their login credentials to fake sites.

These account credentials are subsequently abused in various scams, such as spam distribution and electronic banking fraud.

Traditional phishing attacks were spread through spam email messages, but this too is changing. Only 12 per cent of phishing attacks worldwide were launched via spam mailshots, according to Kaspersky Lab, with the other 88 per cent coming from links to phishing pages which people followed while using a web browser or an instant messaging service such as Skype. ®

Bootnote

*The reason that the figures may seem low is because they only include attacks logged on users of Kaspersky Lab products, a rep from the Russian security firm explained.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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