Computer Crime Research Center


Phishing and MasterCard

Date: May 31, 2005
Source: THE STAR
By: Edwin Yapp

MasterCard International said it has successfully shut down nearly 1,400 global phishing websites � 300 operating from Asia Pacific � last year through its Operation Stop IT (Identity Theft) campaign.

The credit card giant said its success was due to the effective monitoring of phishing activities discovered on the Internet and swift counteraction by Internet service providers (ISPs) and law enforcement agencies.

Launched last June, Operation Stop IT was a round-the-clock programme that monitored the activities of online credit-card trading rings, phishing scammers and other forms of payment fraud racketeers targeting the MasterCard brand, its customers, financial institutions and cardholders.

Phishing scams use fraudulent e-mail and websites that seemingly originate from well-known companies to dupe consumers into divulging personal information such as bank account details and credit card numbers.

Tim Morris, vice-president and Asia Pacific regional head of security and risk management for MasterCard, said the number of websites that were shut down underscores the resounding success of Operation Stop IT.

�With strong collaborative efforts in place, we were able to take quick, decisive action that has been integral to our success,� he said.

Constant vigilance
Since the operation began, MasterCard, through its technology provider, NameProtect Inc, has been continuously monitoring Internet domain names, websites, online discussions, spam e-mail, and other online forums to identify online trading rings, phishing attacks, and other forms of online fraud.

MasterCard will report illegal websites and other illegal online activities to the relevant ISPs to ensure that these websites will be taken offline, upon the detection of such activities.

The company will also report these cases to the proper authorities, such as the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Postal Service and Interpol, for appropriate action.

MasterCard also informs its member financial institutions of these threats, which will in turn warn their customers of the danger of these attacks.

According to MasterCard�s latest findings, most phishing attacks which targeted its credit-card holders were hosted by websites located in the following countries: United States (47%); Europe/South Asia/ Middle East/Africa (25%); Asia Pacific (23%); and Latin America and the Caribbean (5%).

In Asia/Pacific as of last month, Korea accounted for the largest number of phishing sites, followed by China, Taiwan, Japan and Australia.

Effective roll out
The successful implementation of Operation Stop IT has also resulted in a huge reduction in the number of sites selling credit card numbers.

As of May, MasterCard noted there were only 10 sites trading card numbers, compared with 139 sites recorded last June.

The company also said Operation Stop IT proved effective in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy.

The programme helped detect 133 potential tsunami-related phishing sites and prevented a number of fraudsters from cashing in on the tragedy.
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