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Gartner Study Finds Significant Increase in E-Mail Phishing Attacks Against U.S. Online Consumers
Cost to U.S. Banks and Credit Card Issuers Estimated at $1.2 Billion in 2003
STAMFORD, Conn. May 6, 2004 — Phishing attacks by hackers against online consumers have become so widespread that an estimated 57 million Americans likely have received these fraudulent e-mails, according to a new study released today by Gartner, Inc. Direct losses from identity theft fraud against these phishing attack victims cost U.S. banks and credit card issuers about $1.2 billion last year.
Based on survey responses from 5,000 adult Internet users, Gartner analysts project that approximately 30 million adult Internet users believe they have definitely experienced a phishing attack, and another 27 million believe they have observed what looked like a phishing attack.
Phishing attacks are not new, but they have become more pervasive in the past 12 months. According to the Gartner survey, 76 percent of the known or suspected attacks occurred within the past six months (since October 2003), and another 16 percent occurred during the six months before then. Thus the combined results suggest that 92 percent of these phishing attacks took place in the past year.
"Financial institutions, Internet service providers, and other service providers must take phishing seriously," said Avivah Litan, vice president and research director at Gartner. "These service providers should take action to apply solutions that dramatically minimize, if not eradicate, the threat, even if the service providers themselves are not direct targets. Eventually, all participants in Internet commerce will be hurt by an erosion of consumer trust in online transactions if phishing attacks are not sharply reduced from current levels."
Phishing occurs when a cyberthief sends an e-mail that contains a link to a fraudulent Web site where the users are asked to provide personal account information. The e-mail and Web site typically are disguised to appear to recipients as though they are from a trusted service provider, financial institution or online merchant.
The Gartner survey, completed in April, indicated a high rate of success for phishers. Based on survey data, Gartner estimates that about 19 percent of those attacked, or nearly 11 million U.S. adult Internet users, have clicked on the link in a phishing attack e-mail. Moreover, 3 percent of those attacked, or an estimated 1.78 million adults, report giving phishers their financial or personal information.
The data indicate that "phishing attack victims are almost three times as prone to identity-theft related fraud as other online consumers," Litan said. "Anyway you look at it, the crooks are achieving their goals with the execution of phishing attacks. Service providers have no choice but to combat these fraudulent e-mails if networked computing is to become more trusted as a favored channel for customer transactions."
Emerging anti-phishing solutions, ranging from digitally signed e-mail to managed anti-phishing services, are among the technologies that will be discussed in future Gartner research notes.
Gartner analysts will examine additional identity theft issues during the 10th Annual Gartner IT Security Summit, June 7-9, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. This conference covers emerging security technologies, as well as policy, planning and compliance issues. For more details or to register for the Gartner IT Security Summit 2004, visit www.gartner.com/us/itsecurity or call 1-800-778-1997. Members of the media can register for the event by e-mailing Maria DiMasi at email@example.com.
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT and ITB) is the leading provider of research and analysis on the global information technology industry. Gartner serves more than 10,000 clients, including chief information officers and other senior IT executives in corporations and government agencies, as well as technology companies and the investment community. The Company focuses on delivering objective, in-depth analysis and actionable advice to enable clients to make more informed business and technology decisions. The Company’s businesses consist of Gartner Intelligence, research and events for IT professionals; Gartner Executive Programs, membership programs and peer networking services; and Gartner Consulting, customized engagements with a specific emphasis on outsourcing and IT management. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, and has 3,700 associates, including more than 1,000 research analysts and consultants, in more than 75 locations worldwide. For more information, visit www.gartner.com.
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