A record number of websites are hosting keylogging malware to steal sensitive personal information, new figures show.

The number of unique phishing URLs soared to 3,353 in May, according to the latest report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG). The figure represents an increase of 7.4 per cent since the previous peak in February and nearly 95 per cent more than in April.

“This increase can be attributed to the combination of exploit code written for the [recent] Microsoft animated cursor (ANI) vulnerability and the growing use of compromising web servers,” said Dan Hubbard, vice president of Websense. “A large number of these websites were from a regional attack in Asia that compromised several sites and planted exploit code for the then unpatched ANI vulnerability."

However, the research found that while the number of websites hosting malware rose in May, there was a drop in keylogger variants. The number of phishing sites detected by the APWG also fell, with a decrease of more than 18,000 to 37,438.

“The number of unique phishing URLs in May dropped, but remained at the high levels we were seeing last October and November,” said Laura Mather, senior scientist for MarkMonitor and member of the APWG. “The fluctuation in numbers is due to the on-again-off-again trend of phishers using multiple URLs on the same domain.”

The research also found that the financial services industry continues to be the most targeted sector, accounting for 97 per cent of all attacks in May.