Thursday, 27 June 2013
UK World Number One for Phishing Scams
Despite the cloud, high-speed fibre-optics, and all of the new technologies sweeping the Internet, there is still an easy way to steal from people online: simply ask. This surprisingly low-tech method, known as ‘phishing’, happens all over the world. However, the UK appears to be the scam artist’s favourite target.
According to an analysis by Kaspersky, roughly 3,000 UK residents per day were targets of phishing attacks during 2012. Not only is that the highest of any nation the world, it also represents a tripling in the number of attacks over the previous year.
On a worldwide scale, Kaspersky estimates more than 100,000 people are victims of phishing scams daily. That's also an increase, but only a doubling over the previous year. Kaspersky says the highest percentage of phishing scams are based in the United States with the UK hosting the second largest amount.
A phishing scam works by sending out mass e-mails disguised as coming from a legitimate company. The e-mails request consumers do something like verify account details, register credit cards, and so on. When a user clicks on one of the links, he or she is taken to a website designed to look legitimate, even though the scammers operate it.
In the past, phishing attacks have been disguised to make it appear as though they are coming from well-known sites like Facebook, Google, Bank of America, and many more. Unsuspecting Internet users who do not pay attention to these links end up giving away personal information that make it possible to steal their identities and finances.
Interestingly enough, Kaspersky says the majority of phishing attacks are designed to steal account information from Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Amazon accounts. The prevalence of social media in worldwide Internet use gives us a hint as to why.
With Facebook for example, Internet users have access to so many more sites that have partnered with them for customer logins. If the scammer can get hold of a Facebook identity, there is no telling how many other web accounts he/she can access. It is nothing short of an identity management nightmare.
Kaspersky went on to say that phishing scammers find the UK attractive because of the quality of networks and Internet service. That quality means there are more people online, more robust networks, and more resources hackers can use to steal the information they want. It is a case of the UK being victimised by its own technology advancements.
The lesson to be learned here is that the nefarious among us will never be completely stopped by simply passing new laws and increasing penalties. Protecting oneself against scams requires being careful with Internet use. Educating consumers is a good start.
For example, we've been able to change attitudes regarding things like smoking and climate change through relentless public-relation campaigns and education. The same can and should be done regarding Internet security. Phishing can be stopped, for the most part, by providing a much higher level of education and awareness of the matter.