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Anti-Phishing Working Group Report from Q2 2023

 The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) is an international coalition focused on unifying the global response to cybercrime, particularly phishing and e-mail fraud. Established in 2003, APWG brings together businesses, government entities, law enforcement, and non-governmental organizations to combat phishing, crimeware, and e-mail spoofing.They create regular reports on the nature of phishing "in the wild" and share trends in this report. You can download the report here

I wanted to report on a more recent trend report, but at the time of writing I haven't seen a newer one. It being in the middle of 2023, I believe the report is recent enough. 

I found a few areas of interest, and questioned a few pieces.

  1. There was a reported downward trend in phishing. Despite the high numbers, there was a notable downward trend in phishing by the end of the quarter, indicating a possible shift in tactics or improved countermeasures. I have doubt that phishing is occurring less, I believe this indicator is that we're having a harder time detecting phishing. However, I will note that the previous report was in Q1 of 2023 and it had the highest record report.
    Additionally, the report also states there's an increase in social media attacks. With this increase, it has me doubting that BEC or otherwise is on the way out. 
  2. I found a new phrase "Hybrid Vishing Attacks" which is as straightforward as it sounds, vishing mixed with something else like traditional phishing emails or SMS messages. The report believes this is an evolution of attacks, but from the wild it seems like these attacks have been happening for years. Maybe the intention was to indicate that these attacks are so on the rise that they are almost novel in nature. 
  3. Financial Institutions are the most targeted industry at 23.5% and social media sites at 22.3%. That didn't seem all that surprising to me, but what I was interested in was the low amount of other attacked industries in the report. Gaming was at only 1.7%, and maybe people aren't scamming for RS gold these days, but I highly doubt that. The research is sited by a few different organizations that put the report together, but I can't help but think they aren't drilling into these more niche attacks. Payment processing at only 5.8% seems low as well, with plenty of sites pretending to be Zelle related, or otherwise about personal payment processing like Venmo. 
  4. The most popular gift cards in gift card scams are Amazon and Apple Store cards. The Amazon one makes sense to me, due to the versatility of use and demand for Amazon. I'm not surprised to see Apple Store cards on the list because I've seen this trend before. I can recall attackers asking for App Store cards and even Sephora cards in the past. I guess my takeaway is that I never understood why the Apple Store. Is it because they are in demand and easier to launder? The report doesn't go into detail into this topic. 

I found a few other points interesting, like how scammers are still using AOL (which was only 2% of webmail accounts used for BEC) but mostly the report wasn't all too surprising. I look forward to the next trends and reports to see what's other there. Maybe some of my suspicions will be answered.


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