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Phishing on the rise as bots decrease

New research finds that phishing attacks have increased by nearly 800 per cent in the three months of this year.

Phishing attacks have risen over the last six months while use of botnets appears to have slowed down, according to latest research.

The findings from anti-virus company McAfee update predictions made earlier in the year. McAfee's research team Avert Labs saw a 784 percent increase in phishing websites in the first quarter of 2007 and it said there was "no slowdown in sight".

The team said that it anticipated increasing abuse of sites meant for online collaboration such as wiki pages and online applications. Even internet archive sites will suffer, according to the researchers.

But predictions of increased botnets appeared to have been wrong. The team predicted at the beginning of the year that these networks of compromised computers used by hackers for attacks on websites would increase. However, it admitted that the prediction "has been particularly tough to prove".

"A superficial read of statistics indicates that the use of bots has actually decreased lately," the team said.

According to McAfee Avert Labs' and product development senior vice president Jeff Green, the researchers were really surprised by some of the findings.

"As we predicted, professional and organised criminals continue to drive a lot of the malicious activity on the Net. However, we were surprised that mobile malware and image spam tapered off," said Green.

Image spam accounted for up to 65 percent of all spam at the beginning of 2007. "It has actually dropped recently," he said.

The image can triple the size of a single message. This causes a significant increase in the bandwidth used by spam messages. In November 2006, image spam accounted for up to 40 percent of the total spam received. It was less than ten percent a year earlier.

The research found that mobile malware numbers were down for the first quarter of 2007 (12 attacks), compared to the first quarter of 2006 which saw 47 such attacks.

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