Phishing and fraud still a major concern

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The latest report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) warns that online criminals are exploiting an increasing range of companies, with the number of hijacked brands reaching a record 356 in October, up 4.4% August 2009. The sectors most target are financial services (39% of attacks), payment services (33%) and auction companies (13%).

"No brand is safe from the threat of spoofing for the purposes of online fraud. Once, only the largest banks were targeted," commented APWG Secretary General Peter Cassidy. "Now, every kind of enterprise from banks and credit unions of all sizes to charities to, in a recent case, a hardware manufacturer, are now seeing their brands exploited in all manner of fraud scheme."

Although the overall number of phishing reports fell by almost 20%, the reports reveal a significant increase in phishing focused on high-value targets such as personnel with treasury authority. This shows that criminals are increasingly sending customised emails to targeted individuals in an attempt to access secure areas, such as corporate banking systems or VPN networks.

In a separate but related story this week, figures from the UK Card Association showed that online banking fraud was on the increase, rising by 14% to £59.7 million in the UK. It said that this increase was the result of criminals using more sophisticated methods to target online banking customers through malware. The survey also recorded over 51,000 phishing incidents during 2009, a 16% increase on the amount seen in 2008.

"Although online banking fraud losses have shown a year-on-year increase, card fraud remains a main focus of criminal activity," says David Cooper, Chairman of the Fraud Control Steering Group, the payment industry's leading fraud prevention group. "However, the industry remains committed to containing and reducing all areas of fraud. To this end, we will continue our partnership approach - working with law enforcement, retailers, consumers and the Home Office - to tackle fraud head-on."

Despite the increase in online fraud, overall card fraud in the UK declined by nearly a quarter in the year to £440 million, which the Association credits to industry initiatives such as: chip and PIN, fraud detection tools by banks and retailers; and the banking-sponsored special police unit.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.