UK Government Phishing Attacks

A phishing attack is when criminals create fake websites that look like well-known websites such as Marks and Spencer or HMRC or British Gas etc.  They use the fake websites to get your confidential information.

The statistics below refer to sites that pretend to be government.

Top 10 Government ‘Brands’

Brand                                                  No of phishing sites     No of attack groups    Availability hours

HM Revenue & Customs                     16,064                         2,466                           10

Gov.uk                                                   1,541                           241                            15

TV Licensing                                             172                            93                               5

DVLA                                                        107                             53                            11

Government Gateway                                46                              22                              6

Crown Prosecution Service                        43                               26                           15

Student Loans Company                           19                               11                            17

Student Finance Direct                              13                                 3                              3

British Broadcasting Corporation                8                                 7                             35

The availability (in hours) of an attack is the total amount of time the phishing site is available from when the Netcraft service  first becomes aware of the attack through to when it is  finally taken down.

Phishing

When a phishing site is identified that is pretending to be a UK government brand, the hosting provider is asked  to take the site down.

For example:-  a fraudster using an email address onlinehmrctax @ gov.co.uk. and a matching website. That is intended to deceive the user into thinking this is a real HMRC site. Not all phishing sites use domains like this and many are hosted in areas of legitimate sites that have been compromised by the criminal.

A single attack can involve multiple spoof sites, hosted on the same server. If there are many phishing URLs in a single attack, they can easily skew statistics through the responsiveness or otherwise of the hosting provider.

Over the last calendar year, 18, 067 HMG-related phishing sites have been removed.

For comparison, in the previous 6 months , the volume was 19,443 sites.. It’s clear that here are fewer HMG-related phishing takedowns in 2017 and the trend is generally downward. Given how the service is driven, it’s reasonable to assume that it sees a relatively constant percentage of the global phishing and so this strongly suggests that there has been less HMG-related phishing this year than last.

However, it is very likely that this work has had a direct impact on the viability of criminal phishing targeting HMG brands, making them less lucrative and therefore less likely to be used.

It’s obvious from the table that the vast majority of HMG-related phishing attacks continue to use the HMRC brand. That’s unsurprising given that most adults have a relationship with them and everyone would welcome a tax refund.

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