Phishing attacks spreading like a virus

Messages trying to get personal account information are up 81 percent, survey says. The silver lining: improved security measures mean worms and DDOS attacks less painful.

Law enforcement may find itself increasingly overwhelmed by criminal activity online, with phishing attacks going through the roof.

The biannual Internet Security Threat Report found that 157,000 phishing messages went out in the first half of 2006, a whopping 81 percent, Reuters reports.

"Organized crime is here and they are very interested in phishing. They target home users who have become the weakest link," said research scientist Ollie Whitehouse.

"They skim social networking sites and personal websites. Most people, by now, have left a digital footprint which can be mined," Whitehouse said.

And more trouble - phishers have become more sophisticated, learning how to dodge spam filters and the like. Distributed denial of service attacks on the other hand are causing less damage then they were a few years ago.

"A successful 'denial of server' attack or worm can have ramifications far beyond phishing. Worms have taken down electricity grids. That's why critical infrastructure is now much more resilient. Information technology managers are better prepared and networks are more robust," Whitehouse said.

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