Security Experts:

Phishers Registered More Malicious Domain Names Than Ever in Second Half of 2014: Report

Phishing remains a bustling industry on the Web, according to a new report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG).

In its Global Phishing Survey: Trends and Domain Name Use in 2H2014 report, the APWG found that the number of domain names used for phishing reached a record number. According to the report, there were at least 123,972 unique phishing attacks worldwide during the final half of last year, and those attacks occurred on 95,321 unique domain names. That represents the most the APWG has ever seen during a half-year period.

"Of the 95,321 phishing domains, we identified 27,253 domain names that we believe were registered maliciously, by phishers," the report notes. "This is an all-time high, and much higher than the 22,629 we identified in 1H2014. Most of these registrations were made by Chinese phishers. The other 68,303 domains were almost all hacked or compromised on vulnerable Web hosting."

Eighty-four percent of the malicious domains were registered to phish Chinese targets - services and sites in China that primarily serve Chinese customer bases, the APWG found.

"Chinese phishers have always preferred to register domains, relying upon hacked domains and compromised Web servers less often than phishers elsewhere," according to the report. "Their major targets were, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Bank of China (BOC), and Alipay."

More than 16 percent of the world's malicious registrations were made in the .TK, .CF, .GA and .ML registries, according to the report.

"Of the 27,253 maliciously registered domains, just 1,846 contained a relevant brand name or reasonable variation thereof — often a misspelling," the report explains. "This represents 1.9% of all domains that were used for phishing, and just 6.8% of all maliciously registered domains recorded in the sampling period. More often than not, the registrations made by phishers often consisted of nonsense strings."

The ten companies targeted most often by phishers were hit repeatedly, sometimes upwards of 1,000 times a month. Taken together, the top 10 targets accounted for more than three-quarters of all the phishing attacks seen worldwide. The most frequent targets included Apple, PayPal, and, according to the report. The most heavily hit vertical was ecommerce (39.5 percent), which was followed by the banking industry (22 percent).

"Phishers are registering more domains names than ever before," said Rod Rasmussen, CTO of IID and a co-author of the report, in a statement. "Phishing in the new top-level domains started slowly, and we expect to see phishing levels in them rise as time goes on. As usual we see problems concentrated at certain domain registries, domain registrars, and subdomain registries. This emphasizes the need for providers to be vigilant and clamp down on problems, rather than letting cybercriminals have easy access to the resources they need."

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