Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab has said that its anti-phishing system prevented more than 482 million attempts to visit fraudulent webpages during 2018, a two-fold increase on 2017 when 236 million such attempts were blocked. The rapid growth of phishing attacks in 2018 is part of a long-running trend with both 2017 and 2016 experiencing increases of 15 per cent on the previous year. However, the 2018 figure marks a new peak.
Phishing is one of the most flexible types of 'social engineering' attack, as it can be disguised in many ways and used for different purposes. To create a phishing page, all one needs to do is create a replica of a popular or trusted website, lure unwary users to the site and trick them into entering personal information.
Such information often includes financial credentials such as bank account passwords or payment card details, or access credentials for social media accounts. It could also be a case of getting someone to open an attachment or click on a link that then downloads malware onto their computer. The consequences of such attacks may range from a loss of money to the compromise of an entire corporate network, said Kaspersky. Phishing attacks, especially of the malicious link or attachment variety are a popular initial infection vector for targeted attacks on organisations.
The financial sector was hit especially hard. Over 44 per cent of all phishing attacks detected by Kaspersky Lab technologies were aimed at banks, payment systems and online shops. This means that there were almost as many financial phishing attacks in 2018 as there were phishing attacks overall in 2017. The country with the highest percentage of users attacked by phishing remained Brazil with 28 per cent of all attacked users. Portugal, which was in 7th place a year ago, is now ranked second with 23 per cent of users while Australia moved from second to third with 21 per cent of those affected.
"The rise in the number of phishing attacks could be influenced by the increased efficiency of social engineering methods used for enticing users to visit fraudulent pages," said Tatyana Scherbakova, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "2018 was marked by the active exploitation of new schemes and tricks such as scam-notifications along with the perfection of old ones, for instance the traditional scams around Black Friday or national holidays. All in all, scammers are becoming better at taking advantage of important occasions happening around the world, like the FIFA world football championship," he said.
On other findings of the Spam and Phishing Report, Tatyana said the share of spam in mail traffic was 52.48 per cent which is 4.15 per cent less than in 2017. The biggest source of spam this year was China with 11.69 per cent share. Kaspersky Lab experts advise users to always check online addresses in unknown or unexpected messages, whether it is the web address of the site to which you are directed, the link address in a message and even the sender's email address, to make sure they genuine and that the link in the message doesn't cover another hyperlink.
They added that if people are not sure if a website is genuine and secure, they should never enter their credentials. "If you think that you may have entered your login and password on a fake page, immediately change your password and call your bank or other payment providers if you think your card details were compromised," the experts said.
"Always use a secure connection, especially when you visit sensitive websites. Do not use unknown or public Wi-Fi without password protection. If you are using an insecure connection, cybercriminals can redirect you to phishing pages without your knowledge. For maximum protection, use VPN solutions that encrypt your traffic. Use a proper security solution with behaviour-based anti-phishing technologies," the experts added.