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By Kim Zetter 
Threat Level
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 
criminal=E2=80=99s arsenal.

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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