Researchers urge anti-phishing companies to share data

Estimate over $300 million lost annually because data is not shared.

Researchers have revealed malicious websites are often active for longer than they ought to be due to a lack of communication and cooperation between security vendors.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have looked into data sharing among companies that are hired by banks to take down phishing websites. Their study shows that knowledge of malicious URLs is generally not shared, causing these websites to be active much longer than they should be and, ultimately, causing the banks to lose millions through phishing.

Alongside the rise of phishing scams over the past few years has arisen a new industry of companies that are hired by banks to take down phishing sites. These companies get their feed of possible malicious URLs from various sources, including spam traps and customers' feedback, but they only take action when a scam targets the bank/organization that has hired them.

Although these companies are generally successful in taking down malicious sites, for instance by ensuring that the corresponding domain name is suspended from the DNS by the registrar, this leaves a large amount of valuable data unused and unshared.

The researchers found many examples where a take-down company discovered a phishing URL attacking one of its customers days after a competitor had already discovered the URL - but had not taken action.

The researchers estimate that losses of US $326 million per year could be avoided if take-down companies would simply share their data. Not surprisingly, they urge these companies to take action and follow the example of the anti-malware industry, where sample-sharing has been common practice since the early 1990s.

The paper, of which a draft version is available from the researchers' Light Blue Touchpaper blog here, was presented this week at the eCrime Researchers Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.

Posted on 16 October 2008 by Virus Bulletin

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