Clamping down on phishers: Priceless

Nearly 1,400 phishing websites and another 750 purporting to sell credit card numbers have been closed down following a clampdown by MasterCard.

Dubbed "Operation STOP IT", the year-long push has resulted in the protection of 35,000 credit card accounts that "were in danger of being compromised", according to the company. It set up the campaign last June at its Global Risk Management Symposium in response to a massive rise in identity theft.

According to the company, the operation has led to the arrest of 27 people by the US Secret Service. This, it said, "prevented hundreds of millions of dollars of loss".

"The investigation also has resulted in a significant disruption of cybercriminal activity targeting the financial infrastructure of the United States and demonstrates how industry and law enforcement can cooperate to trounce these types of crimes," it said in a statement.

"Compound the successful results of this initiative by the multitude of other programs and systems that we already have in place to protect against fraud, and it is easy to see how much progress is being made to win the war against payment fraud," said Sergio Pinon, senior vice president, Security and Risk Services, MasterCard International.

Despite the closure of these web sites over the last twelve months, the Anti-Phishing Working Group latest report estimated there were 2,870 active phishing web sites this March alone. Experts said it was good to see that organizations were taken the matter seriously but there was much work still to do.

"We have got to start killing the problem at the root," said Clive Longbottom, head of research at analysts Quocirca. "Governments will have to enact laws to clampdown on phishers, otherwise criminals will still see this as a no-risk pursuit."

Last month, SC reported that mobile viruses, phishing attacks, and exploits of software vulnerabilities emerged as top threats, according to a report by McAfee's AVERT research unit.

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