Phishing campaigns worldwide rose nearly 50% in 2022 compared to 2021 driven partly by phishing kits and new AI tools accessible to threat actors, according to zero trust security vendor Zscaler’s ThreatLabz Phishing Report. The company believes that the 2022 increase compared to 2021 was likely driven partly by phishing kits and new AI tools that are now accessible to threat actors. 

AI tools can help threat actors craft convincing phishing messages that are devoid of some of the typical flags of a phishing attempt. 

According to ZScaler 65% of phishing attacks worldwide occurred in the US, and the education sector experienced a 576% increase. Additionally, the finance sector experienced a significant increase in phishing attacks. Their report highlights recent trends in phishing and attackers continue to rely on stolen credentials to leverage attacks but have integrated new techniques with AI tools such as ChatGPT.

The ZScaler report found that most modern phishing attacks rely on stolen credentials and outlined the growing threat from Adversary-in-the-Middle (AitM) attacks, increased use of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). This is a distributed peer-to-peer file system that allows users to store and share files on a decentralised network of computers, as well as reliance on phishing kits sourced from black markets and AI tools like ChatGPT.

The development of phishing has been considerably aided by AI tools like ChatGPT and phishing kits, which have lowered the technological entry barriers for thieves and saved them time and resources. 

According to the paper, “large language models, such as ChatGPT, have made it simpler for cyber criminals to create harmful code, Business Email Compromise (BEC) assaults, and produce polymorphic malware that makes it more difficult for victims to recognise phishing.

A phishing page stored on IPFS is far more challenging to remove due to the peer-to-peer nature of the network. A significant phishing campaign that uses adversary-in-the-middle attacks was just detected by ThreatLabz. AiTM attacks employ strategies that can defeat standard multi-factor authentication procedures.

These findings are based on a year’s worth of global data from the Zscaler security cloud, which monitors over 280 billion transactions daily across the globe, from January 2022 through December 2022.The US, the UK, the Netherlands, Russia, and Canada were the top five most targeted nations. The research lists some brands most frequently replicated as Microsoft, Binance, Netflix, Facebook, and Adobe. 

Because they can successfully resemble legitimate messages, these AI-driven phishing efforts are more challenging to spot and defeat, which increases the likelihood that victims would fall for the scams.  For instance, the survey revealed an increase in bad actors who use vishing and recruiting scams to target job searchers. 

Researchers at Zscaler predict that threat actors will use AI tools more regularly to find fresh targets for phishing scams and they expect to see more sophisticated scams in various forms of communication, including websites, SMS, and email. 

Source:  Cyber Security Intelligence