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Latest Brandjacking Index Examines How Fraudsters Abuse Financial Brands

MarkMonitor®, the global leader in enterprise brand protection, today released the company's latest Brandjacking Index® that studies how fraudsters are abusing major financial brand names and topical subjects like refinancing or unemployment to lure unsuspecting consumers to questionable websites. Examining four leading financial brands, the research indicates opportunistic fraudsters are quick to target citizens looking for ways to get back on their feet from financial challenges and the housing market bust.

"Scammers are preying upon consumer hardship, demonstrating incredible creativity in combining technology, social engineering techniques and current events," said Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer at MarkMonitor. "In this digital age, as the Internet pervades business and leisure, scam artists and fraudsters are quick to profit at the expense of trusted brands across a wide spectrum of industries."

For this Brandjacking Index, MarkMonitor chose four top U.S. and international bank brands to monitor for scams focusing on terms such as foreclosure, mortgage, refinance and unemployed. MarkMonitor sifted through 134 million public domain records and searched billions of Web pages and spam email messages during the study period.

Research from the sample of financial brands shows profound levels of brand abuse, most notably through phishing and suspected domain squatting. More than 7,300 cybersquatted domains were identified targeting the four financial brands in the study. Fraudsters registered domains that combined those financial brands with the focus terms at the rate of more than one domain per day between September 2008 and April 2009. Phishing attacks against the four financial brands numbered 10,000, representing a 36 percent increase in Q1 2009 from the previous quarter.

Some of the highlighted findings in this report are:

Opportunistic abuse exploits economic hardship

  • More than 7,300 domains exploited the four financial brands in the study, with 16 percent of the domains registered since September 2008
  • 24 percent of these cybersquatted domains registered since September 2008 used the focus terms — foreclosure, mortgage, refinance and unemployed — translating to a registration rate of more than one cybersquatted domain per day exploiting the focus terms
  • Domains registered since September 2008 were 50 percent more likely to use the focus terms than domains registered earlier
  • 52 percent of the domains identified in the study did not encrypt customer data, putting consumers' personal identity information at risk

Profound levels of phish attacks target a wide variety of companies and industries

  • A record 502 organizations were phished in Q1 2009, an increase of 24 percent from Q1 2008
  • 93 organizations were phished for the first time in Q1 2009; 82 percent were financial brands
  • While financial services remain a popular target, payment service providers were the most phished category, at 42 percent of total phish attacks
  • Social media is one of the fastest-growing target category for phishers, with attacks increasing 241% against social media companies between Q1 2008 and Q1 2009

Methodology

The Brandjacking Index is an independent report produced by MarkMonitor that tracks and analyzes online abuses of leading brands. The cornerstone of the report is the volume of public data analyzed by MarkMonitor using the company's proprietary algorithms — no customer data or proprietary customer information is used to create the Brandjacking Index. During the study period of January through April, 2009, MarkMonitor searched approximately 134 million public records daily for brand abuse in domain data as well as Internet feeds from leading international Internet Service Providers (ISPs), email providers and other alliance partners.

About MarkMonitor

MarkMonitor

MarkMonitor®, the world leader in enterprise brand protection and a Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science business, uses a SaaS delivery model to provide advanced technology and expertise that protects the revenues and reputations of the world's leading brands. (Learn More)

Related topics: Cybercrime, Cybersquatting, Domain Names, Law, Security, Spam

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