The festive season has brought along a heavy increase in global spam, with China and South Korea now leading the world in spewing out the number of phishing e-mails populating the globe.
Phishing e-mails in particular increased from 0.4 percent of all spam discovered in November to 2.2 percent of total spam discovered globally, triple the amount of phishing e-mails over the last six months, according to the Threat Research and Content Engineering (trace) team at e-mail security firm Marshal.
Locally, popular phishing targets have been the National Australia Bank and Bendigo Bank.
According to the Spam Volume Index launched this month, Christmas is feeding a frenzy of global spam with some 10.9 percent of all spam found to be Christmas related.
Bradley Anstis, director of product management for Marshal, said the current spike in phishing e-mails is also driven by the Christmas season.
"Scammers and spammers are ramping up their efforts because they are aware that there are more consumers shopping online, looking for gift ideas and receiving e-cards. There are more people who are likely to open the messages," Anstis said.
"Overall spam levels continue to rise despite a slight drop two weeks ago; reaching an all-time high last week.
"Spammers are no longer using one spam variation repeatedly until it no longer gets through. They are constantly varying their spam techniques such as with ransom not spam, using animated GIFs and extreme use of image randomization."
Marshal predict image-based spam is responsible for more than 30 percent of current global spam.
According to the Trace labs, last week Spain, the United States and South Korea were the top three respective 'phishing' countries as a percentage of all spam.
The current "top 12" phishing countries according to Marshal's threat report, this week, are China, South Korea, Spain, United States, France, Brazil, Italy, Israel, Poland, United Kingdom, Argentina and Russia.
A report by Sophos released in late November said 75 percent of all current phishing e-mails were directed to eBay and PayPal users. The Australian Payments Clearning Association (APCA) found there were more than 250,000 fraudulent transactions throughout 2005/06, totalling $142.6 million.
Rob Forsyth, Sophos Asia Pacific managing director, said avoiding retail store queues this holiday involves computer users remaining vigilant and alert to the risks when trading online.
"Cyber criminals certainly won't be taking holidays this season," Forsyth said.
"Instead, they will be lurking online waiting to pounce on any computer user who lets down their guard."