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Online security concerns seesaw as spam dips and phishing rises

17 November 2010 - 10:20 by Mike Price

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Cybercriminals who want to exploit average consumers online are turning away from traditional methods such as spam, in order to harness new tools offered by social networking services (SNS). This is according to a report from security firm Symantec, which has tracked the rise of SNS phishing sites and the fall in the number of spam emails in recent months.

Last month the total number of spam messages dropped by 22.5 per cent when compared with September or by more than 47 per cent with August. This is thought to be because significant spam-generating botnets were taken out of action during this period, making it more difficult for criminal groups to distribute their malicious mail.

Over the same period the number of phishing sites which attempt to defraud and infect the PCs of social network fans rose by 80 per cent. Interestingly, throughout this entire period, only two brands have been harnessed by criminals in order to deceive casual browsers who are looking for safe shopping online or a place to stay in touch with their friends.

Symantec analysts found that the targeting of shoppers who are preparing for the festive season began in October, which is earlier than ever before. A wide variety of ploys are used by spammers, with fake goods making a particularly problematic appearance.

The midterm elections in the US once again showed that spammers have their fingers on the pulse of current affairs, as there was a 1.4 per cent rise in the number of political spam messages sent last month.

The advice for those who want to avoid fraud and identity theft while seeking safe shopping online remains the same as it has in previous periods. Do not open or download any attachments or visit any links contained within unsolicited, suspicious mail.