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Phishing And Domain Name Use Study

Published April 29, 2011

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) has just released a comprehensive analysis of phishing activity that took place globally  in the second half of 2010; highlighting trends in  domain names used in phishing activities.

Phishing is a form of online fraud, usually perpetrated by email communications masquerading as communications from legitimate companies. The emails are designed to induce the reader to part with personal and financial information; often directing a reader to fill in a form or "log in" to their account on a web site that may look very similar to the legitimate company.

The group says the second half of last year saw phishing activities remaining concentrated in association with certain domain extensions. In terms of attacks, 4 TLDs made up 60% of incidents; with the extensions being: .COM, .CC, .NET, and .ORG.

In relation to malicious domain registrations, 89% were also made in 4TLDs; .COM, .TK, .NET, and .INFO.

An interesting point is that in only about 9 percent of all situations where domain names were used for phishing purposes was a brand name of variation of brand name used. 

Phishers also appeared to be using free domain and subdomain services more regularly last year. AWG says two free services were heavily abused by phishers -: the .TK domain registration service and the CO.CC subdomain service; with nearly 11 percent of all incidents using these lesser known name spaces.

The report notes that China's clampdown on  the availability of .CN domain names did not deter phishing targeting Chinese Internet users and institutions, but seems to have seen the phishers simply move to using other top level domains.

There were at least 67,677 phishing attacks worldwide in the second half of 2010, originating from 42,624 unique domain names. AWG states it identified 11,769 domain names registered by phishers and of those, over half were registered to target China. The remaining domains were hacked or compromised on vulnerable web hosting services. 

In relation to Australian domain names, or more accurately, web sites operating under Australian domain names that were compromised, 754 unique phishing attacks occurred during the second half of last year, originating from 491 domains. The number of .au domain names found to be registered maliciously for the purposes of phishing was just 3.

The full AWG report, entitled "Global Phishing Survey 2H2010: Trends and Domain Name Use" can be viewed here (PDF).

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