Phishing Attacks Rise by 50% month on month

There were 176 unique phishing attacks in January, a 52 percent increase from December, according to data from the Anti Phishing Working Group, an industry association tracking phishing and e-mail spoofing. The number of scams continued to increase throughout the month, averaging more than seven separate scams per day by the third week in January.

Nearly a third of the attacks in January used the "@" user authentication syntax to construct disguised URLs in links. A Microsoft security patch released Feb. 2 disabled that capability in the Internet Explorer browser. A smaller number - seven percent of January attacks - exploited an IE flaw that causes the browser to display an incorrect URL in its address and status bars.

"In addition to the increasing volume, we are starting to see a number of phishing attacks that are 'repeats' - these attacks were sent out previously, and identical versions of these attacks appear to have beeen sent out again," the working group said in its analysis. All told, 13.6 percent of attacks were repeats of earlier scams.

Nearly three-quarters of the attacks focused on four target institutions - eBay (51), Citibank (35), America Online (34) and PayPal (10).

Phishing attacks seek to trick account holders into divulging sensitive account information through the use of e-mails which appear to come from trusted financial institutions and retailers.

Netcraft has developed a service to help banks and other financial organizations identify sites which may be trying to construct frauds, identity theft and phishing attacks by pretending to be the bank, or are implying that the site has a relationship with the bank when in fact there is none.