Singapore sees phishing attempts surge

The number of phishing attempts dramatically increased in Singapore last year, according to the Singapore Cyber Emergency Response Team (SCERT)

Meanwhile, ransomware incidents continued to impact small and medium-sized businesses. 

Some 8,500 phishing attacks were reported to the SCERT in 2022, compared to 3,100 the previous year. 

Over half of such cases in 2022 involved hyperlinks ending with ‘.xyz,’which is a popular top-level domain used by threat actors due to its low cost and limited use restrictions. The average length of phishing links also had been cut by almost half.

More than 80% of phishing sites attempted to pass off as organisations from the banking and financial services sector, according to the Singapore Cyber Landscape 2022 report.

June and September, in particular, saw the highest number of phishing attempts in the sector last year. More than half of these involved spoofing of China-based banks, even though several of these entities, including the Agricultural Bank of China, Zhongyuan Bank, and China Minsheng Bank, have minimal presence in Singapore’s retail banking market.  

The overall increase in phishing attempts parallels that of global trends, the CSA report stated, adding that SCERT last year facilitated the takedown of 2,918 takedowns phishing sites. Such attacks were the leading type of overall cyber scams last year, clocking 7,097 reported cases, up 41.3% from 2021, according to figures from the Singapore Police Force.

CSA noted that the spike in reported cases also could be attributed to its community outreach and increased public awareness of phishing threats, driving more to actively report such cases to SCERT.

The cybersecurity regulator said while the number of reported ransomware incidents dipped slightly to 132, compared to 137 in 2021, such attacks remained a significant issue in Singapore and worldwide. 

It added that these figures are unlikely to reflect the full extent of such threats since not every victim reports an attack. Citing estimates from the FBI, CSA said just 20% of ransomware victims in the US sought the help of law enforcement.

In Singapore, SMEs again were most impacted by ransomware attacks, particularly, those in manufacturing and retail. These businesses are popular targets because they often lack resources dedicated to tackling cyber threats, the CSA said.

The report also noted that ransomware groups had exhibited increased “commercial and professional-like behaviour” and diversified their portfolios to target cloud environments and Linux systems.