Woburn, MA – February 7, 2020 –Kaspersky researchers detected a 9.5% growth in financial phishing in the final quarter of 2019, with holiday-season spam and scam activity also growing in numbers and variety.
The last quarter of the year is a fruitful time for cybercriminals, who prey on shoppers rushing to get a good deal ahead of the holidays. Now that the season is over, analysis of the threat landscape during the period provides a better understanding of changes in fraudulent activities. In 2019, the share of financial phishing continued to grow, surpassing half (52.61%) of all phishing attempts in Q4.
Financial phishing total
Financial phishing dynamics in 2019
Phishing remains an effective way to lure users into handing over their personal data and credit card credentials. Popular brands are most often used as bait. One of the examples discovered by Kaspersky was a fake Amazon page, offering users Christmas promotions so criminals could steal their Amazon Prime credentials.
An example of the Amazon phishing page
Such scams often prove effective. The analysis of phishing activity using the eBay and Alibaba brand names as bait showed significant growth just before big shopping holidays. Just a few days before Black Friday sales, the number of users trying to access eBay phishing pages grew four-fold, reaching over 8,000 attempts daily. These high levels of visits were maintained until mid-December, with an additional peak a week before Christmas. A similar pattern was seen with phishing versions of the Alibaba website.
The number of blocked attempts to visit phishing versions of eBay (left) and Alibaba (right) by Kaspersky users
Spam emails also showed slight growth in the holiday season, as well as a significant diversification in topics. Criminal schemes varied from promises of Christmas donations, to scams with attempts to steal cryptocurrency, to malicious emails sent to organizations as fake urgent Christmas orders.
Spam dynamics in 2019
Such holiday-related scams and spam emails are not exclusive to the Christmas season alone. Users in South East Asia also received typical “gift offers,” but instead tied to Lunar New Year.
“The holiday season is a time for impulse purchases and rash decisions,” said Tatyana Sidorina, security analyst at Kaspersky. “Pressure to get a good deal or buy presents can mean that users are distracted, making it easier for cybercriminals to take advantage of them. Of course, this does not mean that anyone should abstain from shopping ahead of the holidays – users just need to pay extra attention to their credit card payments. It is possible that a subscription or a delayed charge for a present for friends or family could turn out to be fraudulent, as criminals often do not use stolen data straight away.”
An example scam offer for a Samsung smartphone allegedly sent as a gift for Chinese New Year
Read the full holiday season spam and phishing report on Securelist.com.
To stay safe from spam and phishing, Kaspersky recommends the following:
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