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“Phishing” trips more popular than ever

Media Release

20 November 2007

“Phishing” trips more popular than ever this summer

Industry experts are warning that New Zealand “phishing trips” are on the rise, and the scams are getting more believable and sophisticated every day.

The criminals are getting smarter and making better use of the technology so the public has to be more vigilant is the message Netsafe has on international Computer Security Day today.

Netsafe Executive Director Martin Cocker says many people would be surprised at how sophisticated some of the phishing attacks have become.

“It’s definitely getting more organised and more convincing. The initial phishing emails now look more believable than in the past and the scams are supported by a more sophisticated infrastructure. Many of the obvious tell tale signs like bad grammar or spelling errors are gone making the email appear more believable. However the same simple message applies, whether it appears to have come from a bank, trading, or shopping site: never respond to an email which asks for personal details.”

Mr Cocker says the evolution of the systems is another worrying factor.

“Recently I’ve seen warnings about “rock-phishing”, which is where the perpetrators have more sophisticated systems in place to hide their servers and infect even more recipients than they did before.

“And although we’ve not seen it in New Zealand yet, we’ve been alerted to “vishing” which uses pre-recorded ‘voice over internet’ technology in an attempt to trick people into disclosing critical personal details.

The frequency of attacks also appears to be on the rise at the moment. Figures released by Westpac showed that although things had gone quiet during much of 2006 and early 2007, the attacks are starting to hot up once again, with each fraudulent site being closed down by the bank’s world-class anti-phishing service. In October and November the bank was the target of 11 distinct episodes. Last year the bank averaged two per month.

Head of e-business Stu Woollett says while most of the phishing activity in Australasia targets the Australian banks, Westpac NZ like other NZ banks, also gets targeted from time to time.

“We’re in a great position to frustrate their attempts with our systems, and of course we have in place our online guarantee to protect our customers against online fraud. But the big message is that consumers themselves need to be ever more wary.

“We’ve not experienced any losses as a result of the recent attacks, but it is also abundantly clear that individuals themselves need to be aware of these scams. No-one should ever give their passwords to anyone.

“We’re confident we can keep abreast of developments by these fraudsters, however the onus is on people themselves to be responsible.”

Westpac is Netsafe’s strategic sponsor and the two organisations work together to promote safe use of communications technology.

Westpac’s online guarantee, announced in August, protects anyone who has unintentionally been a victim of phishing. Westpac has always covered losses from previous phishing episodes.


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