"Follow the money" might well be the marketing slogan for cybercriminals working the internet now, according to a new report on online financial fraud and identity theft.

The report, from internet-monitoring firm Cyveillance, indicates that cybercriminals "are going after the people with the financial resources, American consumers," Todd Bransford, the company's vice president of marketing, said.

"The bulk of the criminal activity related to identify theft and online financial fraud on the internet is targeted at U.S. consumers," Bransford said.

He said that more than 80 per cent of the compromised credit cards on the internet were issued by US banks.

The report, which analysed data collected between April 1 and June 30, revealed that while the rate of traditional phishing attacks seems to be leveling, there is a 20 per cent increase in the aggregate quantity of brands targeted.

Bransford said this indicates phishers continue to change targets, with large US financial institutions the prime victims. More than 80 per cent of the 284 brands targeted by phishing attacks for the first time in the second quarter of 2007 were US-based, Cyveillance said. Overall, more than 1,400 companies have been phished since 2005, according to the report.

During the second quarter, the company identified more than two million URLs that were distributing malicious downloads to visitors without their knowledge.

Web-based malware distribution has evolved into what Cyveillance called a "fraud chain" of malware hosting, distribution and drop sites. It said that 60 per cent of the websites storing malware binaries are in China and the United States, with 63 per cent of the sites used to attract and distribute malware based here. The US also hosts more than 50 per cent of malware drop sites, which collect information from computers infected with keyloggers and screen scrapers that harvest end-user information.

It makes sense that criminals go after US consumers, Bransford said.

"Think how easy it is to establish a web presence in the state," he said. "They can register a domain name, create content, host a website and advertise it in a matter of minutes. That's one of the drivers behind why the drops sites are in this country."