Phish now tastes better than spam to hackers, says Symantec researcher

According to Samir Patel, against a backdrop of a volatile global economy, the internet user – the consumer – has become pivotal in deciding the future of the world's economies, and whether we slip back into a recession.

Logically, he said, consumers felt their money was safer in the bank rather than in their wallet. The pangs of recession, he added, have definitely affected world economy and consumer spending.

“This volatile economic state has perhaps impacted the strategy of email spammers in a very defining way as well, especially from the point of view of pushing additional spam mails. A paradigm shift is being observed from spam to phishing. Therefore, it is worth lending some thought to the modus operandi of spammers”, he said in his latest security blog post.

Patel goes on to say that a major source of survival for spammers is consumer spending. With the recession eroding world economies, consumer spending has taken a major hit.

Spammers, he asserted, who have thrived on luring consumers to spend money, have definitely been dealt a severe blow. After all, who is going to be lured by spammed products during tough financial circumstances?

What logically follows in the world view of a spammer is the money in your bank account rather than that in your purse. Or, in other words, he argued, spammers will shift to baiting consumers with phishing emails to try and steal banking credentials when they know their spam campaigns aren’t working.

After detailing a graph showing the spam timelines measured against previous recessionary periods in the world's economic history, the Symantec researcher said that there is a clear divergence visible in the chart – a steady fall in the volume of spam and a steady rise in phishing volumes.

“Of course, the spam volume is definitely huge as compared to the phishing volume. But, the movements are noteworthy, keeping the global financial status in mind”, he said.

Tracking his figures in more depth, Patel said that the average volume of phishing increased exponentially – by 49% – between August 2010 and August 2011, compared to the average phishing URL volume seen between February 2009 and July 2010.

On the other hand, during the same time frame, the volume of spam fell by around 42%. In other words, he said, the point at which phishing began to rise is near to when financial jitters raised their ugly head and spam volumes started to drop off.

“We [here] at Symantec are closely monitoring these ripple effects. We would like to remind you to keep your security products updated to stave off all such malicious advances from spammers who will just as easily don a phishing hat and try their luck hooking into your bank account”, he concluded.

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