Phishing attacks may be coming from your computer

Most phishing attempts come from about 1,000 compromised "zombie" computers owned by broadband customers, and the phishing attacks are likely generated by less than five phishing operations, according to a survey by CipherTrust.

The e-mail survey company, in a survey this month of more than 4 million pieces of e-mail, found that nearly all of the attacks came from about 1,000 machines, mostly customers of DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem services The number of compromised machines remained fairly static during the two-week survey, suggesting that a limited number of groups were looking for exploited machines to send out phishing-scam e-mail, said Dmitri Alperovitch, a research engineer with CipherTrust.

The survey illustrates the importance of home computer users taking steps to protect their computers, Alperovitch said. "All of the machines have been exploited in some way or another," he added. "Improving security at DSL or cable customers' homes can certainly solve the problem."

Close to 28 percent of the IP (Internet protocol) addresses used in the phishing attacks during the two-week survey were from U.S. computers. Another 17 percent of the IP addresses were South Korean, and another 8 percent were Chinese.

About 0.35 percent of the more than 4 million e-mail messages CipherTrust examined were phishing solicitations. Scammers using phishing tactics typically send out e-mail targeting users of financial institutions or other e-commerce sites. The bogus e-mail message often tells recipients there's a problem with their accounts, and that they need to re-enter their bank account or credit card number at a Web site designed to look like the legitimate e-commerce site.

Most of the compromised computers sending phishing e-mail also sent other spam, and much of the e-mail coming from those compromised machines was similar across nearly all of the computers. That leads CipherTrust to believe that all of the phishing attacks during the two-week survey came from two or three phishing operations, Alperovitch said. During a typical day during the survey, about 200 distinct phishing attacks were sent out, compared to hundreds of thousands of spam attacks.

"That tells me there is a very limited number of people involved in this," he added. "There has to be one person crafting this, unless they're sharing a brain or something."

CipherTrust has shared the results of its phishing survey with law enforcement officials, the company said.

During the survey, more than 54 percent of the phishing attempts used e-mail faked to look like it came from CitiBank. Another 13 percent of the attacks targeted customers of Smith Barney, also a division of Citigroup Global Markets, while 10 percent targeted SunTrust Banks, and nearly 8 percent targeted PayPal, owned by eBay. Targets of phishing attacks change over time, CipherTrust noted.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?