Phishing attacks accounted for more than half of all viruses over the last two months.
Analysis by Network Box revealed that phishing attacks soared before Christmas (to 57 per cent of malware), as criminals attempted to exploit the number of people shopping online.
The figure was confirmed by RSA's online fraud report for January, which stated that in December, the total number of phishing attacks identified was 15,596 attacks, a three per cent increase from November.
However RSA said that despite increased awareness, with 76 per cent of respondents saying that they are familiar with phishing, there have been a growing number of online users that have fallen victim to a phishing attack. RSA said that in its 2007 survey, only five per cent of respondents cited that they had been a victim of a phishing attack, whereas in 2009, 29 per cent claimed they had fallen for a phishing scam.
It attributed this to advanced tactics that online criminals use today, and the fact that phishing attacks have become more sophisticated and targeted. It also said that there are still very low levels of awareness among consumers regarding newer threats such as 'vishing' (voice phishing) and 'smishing' (phishing via SMS messaging).
Simon Heron, internet security analyst at Network Box, said: “We normally expect to see phishing attacks drop slightly after Christmas, but this year we're seeing the number of attacks staying high.
“Sustained economic difficulties combined with shoppers seeking online sales bargains create an ideal environment for criminals. What's interesting is the increase in attacks from two of Western Europe's major economies – the UK and Germany – as well as from the more ‘traditional' centres of attack.”