China becoming haven for phishers

A report from China's official news agency shows a massive increase in the number of fradulent sites hosted in the country

China is playing host to a growing number of phishing scams, according to recent research that found a sharp rise in fraudulent Web sites hosted there.

Security professionals in the Chinese National Computer Emergency Response Team (CNCERT) said this week that 223 fraudulent Web sites were discovered in China last year, compared to only one reported in 2003.

A report from the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that most of the sites are owned by people outside of China and that the country had become a haven for scammers.

Phishing emails lure victims into parting with confidential information, typically by purporting to be from a bank or e-commerce vendor and linking to Web sites set up to look like those of the companies in question, but hosted by scammers.

Last week, the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS) claimed that banking customers are waking up to the threats of online fraud.

"Increasingly customers are realising that banks don't communicate this way and that they shouldn't respond to fraudsters," said Sandra Quinn, director of corporate communications for APACS.

Earlier this month, APACS reported that thieves stole £12m from UK banks last year through the use of phishing scams.

"We're not surprised that last year's losses are high because of the number of attacks that have been made," Quinn added. "What is encouraging is that it affected only a very small number of victims."