Corporate brands face multi-pronged assaults from fraudulent online attackers, according to a report published on Monday that quantifies the scope of the most common threats.
MarkMonitor, which supplies Internet brand protection services to companies, said its new “Brandjacking Index” found “cybersquatting”—in which illicit sites usurp popular trademarks, false association, phishing and clickfraud as major threats.
A four-week survey of public websites completed early in April found cybersquatting posed the greatest threat to brands. Phishing—the criminal use of email to trick consumers into divulging passwords, credit cards and other personal details—and domain “kiting”—the rapid registering and dropping of similar- sounding website names—are on the rise.
The study tracked daily mentions on 134 million public web records for the world’s top 25 brands, along with major brands from eight industrial categories such as autos, apparel, food, and high-tech. The study ran from 9 March to6 April.
MarkMonitor found major brands suffered, on average, 286,000 examples of cybersquatting during the over four-week long survey, far and away the most common abusedetected.
Clickfraud—or siphoning off consumers via fake pay-per-click ads—was identified 50,743 times, while e-commerce fraud occurred 21,093 times and kiting 11,015. These figures represent the four-week average for each brand.
Frederick Felman, MarkMonitor’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview that cybersquatting is a starting point for other forms of abuse, including search marketing tricks designed to pull traffic away from reputable websites.
“Brand-holders face a double whammy: The volume of these abuses is significant, while abusers are becoming alarmingly savvy marketers,” Felman said.
MarkMonitor said media and Internet companies are the biggest targets of cybersquatting, while banks and other financial services are the mostly likely victims of kiting and phishing.
That media and Internet brands are the most attractive targets—drawing 31% of what MarkMonitor collectively terms “brand abuse”—reflects the fact that 10 of the top 15 sites on the web fall in thiscategory. The number of phishing attacks grew 104% during the month of March from the same month in 2006, the survey found, with more than 229 brand name companies, mostly financial services firms, coming under assault.
Financial services made up 41% of all phishing attacks in the first quarter of 2007, up from 29% in the first quarterof 2006. The latest quarter was the first time banks had outpaced online auctions such as eBay Inc. as targets. Auctions suffered 36% phishingattacks.