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By Kim Zetter
October 26, 2010
The number of targeted phishing attacks against individuals has risen
dramatically in the last five years from one or two a week in 2005 to
more than 70 a day this month, according to a new report from computer
security firm Symantec.
The industry most recently hardest hit by so-called spear-phishing
attacks is the retail industry, according to Symantec=E2=80=99s MessageLabs
Intelligence report. The number of attacks against retail exploded in
September in particular, jumping to 516 attacks from just seven attacks
a month for the rest of 2010.
The statistics are somewhat skewed, though, since most of the September
attacks against retail were directed at a single company. Symantec
counts each copy of a malicious e-mail received by an organization as a
unique attack, even if it=E2=80=99s the same e-mail sent to multiple people at
the same time. But the report illustrates that, five years after its
invention, spear-phishing remains a trusted tool in the modern cyber
Unlike regular phishing attacks, which involve spamming a message to
random users, spear-phishing targets specific individuals or small
groups of employees at specific companies. The former are generally
designed to steal banking credentials and e-mail passwords from users,
while the latter generally focus on gaining access to a system to steal
intellectual property and other sensitive data.
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