PayPal was the most frequently spoofed brand in the third quarter of 2019, unseating Microsoft, phishers’ usual favorite, which held the top spot for more than a year, Vade Secure reports.
Microsoft has been the most impersonated brand for five consecutive quarters, or as long as Vade Secure has published its quarterly Phishers’ Favorites report. PayPal has consistently been a popular target; however, this year saw an uptick in PayPal attacks. Unique PayPal phishing URLs spiked 167.8% and 111.9% year-over-year in the first and second quarters, respectively. This quarter saw 69.6% growth with 16,547 unique PayPal phishing URLs, or nearly 180 per day.
Several factors edged the world’s most popular payment service into the top spot. Its massive user base is one: Active PayPal accounts exceeded 286 million in the second quarter. PayPal also announced in July it would play a role in Facebook cryptocurrency Libra, though it later backed out. The company also announced plans to expand Xoom, a money transfer platform it bought in 2015, to 32 countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Phishing campaigns have capitalized on PayPal’s popularity. One discovered by Vade researchers targeted more than 700,000 people, primarily located in Europe, with emails threatening legal action and requesting a small amount of money from recipients.
Microsoft phishing URLs totaled 13,849, marking a 31.5% drop from the second quarter and its lowest total since the first quarter of 2018. Researchers don’t suggest a singular reason for the decline – it could be seasonal, they note – but say Office 365 phishing attacks are still “widely popular,” with more than 150 unique URLs per day. Attackers have begun to focus on email construction and randomization techniques to bypass defenses. The new tactics mean there is less need to create a unique URL for each email because they can reuse the same URL across many.
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