Cyber criminals exploit Haiti tragedy with malicious attacks

Cyber criminals take advantage of Haiti Appeal for spam and phishing attacks

There was no let up in spamming and phishing activities last month even as the entire world watched with sympathy the tragedy in Haiti. To add to the sorrow behind the devastating earthquake on 12 January, cyber criminals took advantage of the tragedy to launch spamming and phishing attacks.

"Both scam and phishing categories doubled in terms of the percentage of all spam in January 2010 compared to December 2009," reported Symantec in its State of the Spam and Phishing Report of February 2010.

Similar to other trends in the past, 24 to 48 hours after the earthquake hit, cyber criminals launched their attacks. So-called 419 spams inviting people to donate proliferated to lure Internet users to donate to bogus entities. Some even went to the extent of pretending to be legitimate organisations, such as the UNICEF, Symantec reported.

Malware were also introduced into videos pretending to be footages of the earthquake.

Symantec said 79 per cent of phishing attacks in January were aimed at the financial sector. "Phishing attacks are getting more and more targeted in nature and are focused on attacking major brands rather than being mass attacks," the report stated.

But Symantec also observed a 25 per cent decrease from the previous month in all phishing attacks due to a decline in the volume of phishing toolkit attacks. Last month, 14 per cent of phishing URLs were generated using phishing toolkits, a decrease of 50 per cent from a month ago.

Seasonal attacks

Seasonal spurious activities were also reported. These included Valentine's Day promotions and anything that has to do with the 15 April deadline to file taxes.

The United States is still the main source of spams last month at 24 per cent, slightly up by one per cent compared to the previous month. Brazil is a far second origin at only six per cent.

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