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Phishing reloaded, the migration to mobile

By Pierluigi Paganini, Editor-in-Chief

Recent studies of principal security firms revealed that phishing activities in the last years have increased exponentially; cybercrime is targeting every sector from industry to government institutions and of course private citizens. RSA’s October Online Fraud Report 2012 confirmed a large increase in phishing attacks, up 19% over the second half of 2011. The total loss for various organizations comes to $2.1 billion over the last 18 months; these are amazing figures that gives an in idea of the amplitude of phenomena. RSA declared that it detected around 33,000 phishing attacks each month worldwide in 2012, 60% of blocked attacks originated from U.S. servers, on the other side the countries most targeted are US hit by 26% percent of the global volume of phishing attacks followed by U.K. at 46%.

Since the beginning of the year, security experts have noticed a slowing of the progression above, certainly due to the monitoring activities of the major security companies, but the data do not be fooled because we’re observing a significant number of phishing attacks against mobile platforms.

Security firms have discovered an increasing number of web sites expressly deployed to target mobile users, targeting mainly e-banking and e-commerce services, Trend Micro revealed that in 2012 75 percent of mobile phishing URLs were rogue versions of popular financial and banking sites, only a small percentages (4%) were related to sites try to trick online shoppers and social network users (2%).


The schema of attack is simple such as efficient is very simple, users in a misleading are hijacked on spoofed versions of legitimate sites, to trick them into disclosing sensitive information such as banking credentials, account details and other personal information that could be used in successive APT attacks.

Trend Micro also provide a list of most targeted firm, PayPal users are at the top followed by other financial institutions such as Absa Internet Banking, Barclays and Wells Fargo.

Company Name




Absa Internet Banking


Popular en linea


Mijn ICS (International Card Services)




Wells Fargo




Bank of America


SFR (Societe Francaise du Radiotelephonie)


KBC Bank NV and Match.Com (tie)

Banking/Finance, Online dating

mobile sites

Why mobile users are privileged targets of cybercriminals?

Bad habits (e.g. jailbreaking of mobile devices, downloading apps from third part store), absence  of defense mechanisms and poor awareness on principal cyber threats, expose mobile users to serious risks, Trend Micro’s Gelo Abendan also added:
“This trend in launching phishing attacks on mobile devices can be attributed to certain limitations of the platform itself. This includes the small screen size in most mobile devices, which prevents users from fully inspecting websites for any anti-phishing security element,” 

“With majority of mobile devices using default browsers, it is also easier for cybercriminals to create schemes as they need only focus on one browser instead of many.”

In the following graph is proposed the list of principal mobile cyber threats and related distribution according Trend Micro.

graph 2

Despite actually mobile phishing represents a small portion, less than 1% of overall phishing URLs, it is expected a rapid growth of criminal activities that will target mobile platform so let suggest to install defense system also on mobile devices, keep update installed apps, do not download from third part app stores, avoid jail braking operations and of course avoid clicking on links contained in unsolicited emails.

(Sources: CDM and Phishing)

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