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Phishing attacks increase at beginning of 2014

Phishing attacks by cyber criminals has increased over the past few months.

Online attacks have become more prevalent over the past few months, so credit unions should make sure they and their members are properly protected. A new report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, an international consortium, found that there were 125,215 attacks by cybercriminals during the first quarter of 2014. This is the highest number on record since the first quarter of 2012, when 164,032 attacks occurred.

The activity over the last quarter was up 10.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013. This trend is troublesome because the APWG reported that 2013 was one of the busiest years for phishing attacks. Phishing is when thieves use "social engineering and technical subterfuge" in order to access the personal information of consumers or credentials of a financial institutions, according to the report. APWG said that thieves can commit these crimes in a number of ways.

"Social engineering schemes use spoofed e-mails purporting to be from legitimate businesses and agencies, designed to lead consumers to counterfeit websites that trick recipients into divulging financial data such as usernames and passwords," the report read.

On average, the report stated that there were more than 41,000 attacks each month in the first quarter. The brunt of them - 46.5 percent - were suffered by payment services. Banks and financial institutions followed suit at 20 percent.

Attacks happen in a number of ways
The report from APWG stated that cybercriminals will access a compromised web server and then set up several hosting pages on different and unique domains in order to steal information from unsuspecting parties. Greg Aaron, APWG senior research fellow, said that no one organization is being targeted and what is more of a broad attack.

"The number and diversity of phishing targets continued to increase," Aaron said. "Almost any enterprise that takes in personal data via the web is a potential target."

The study was an all-encompassing one, but APWG reported that the U.S. was one of the top targets for cybercriminals during the first quarter of 2014.

Other countries that suffered attacks were China, where 52.4 percent of worldwide computers were compromised. Turkey and Peru also had issues with attacks as well.

Luis Corrons, PandaLabs technical director, said that during the first quarter 32.7 percent of computers were affected by malware, adware or spyware across the globe.