Application security

MessageLabs: Phishing emails outnumber virus, trojan email attacks

For the first time, there are more phishing email messages than emails containing viruses and trojans, according to new research.

The latest MessageLabs report found that one in 93 (1.1 percent) of emails sent last month was some form of phishing attack. The ratio of messages containing viruses or trojans was one in 120 (0.83 percent).

The change is partially due to virus attacks becoming more targeted, unlike large outbreaks such as the recent storm worm and Warezov, according to the report.

Security experts also attribute the shift to hackers trying to circumvent two-factor authentication. The added safeguard, employed by growing numbers of online retailers and banks, has given rise to "man-in-the-middle" phishing sites.

Greater numbers of phishing websites are now using Flash content, rather than HTML, in an attempt to thwart anti-phishing technology installed in web browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox 2.0 and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7, according to the research.

"We are seeing malicious virus and phishing attacks increase in sophistication and ability to evade many preventative technologies," said Mark Sunner, chief security analyst at MessageLabs. "Certainly consumers are the most vulnerable to phishing attacks and trojans, but these problems also represent rising costs for many businesses."

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