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Google flagged over two million phishing sites in 2020

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Although it's not over yet, 2020 is already a record year for phishing sites (opens in new tab) with Google registering 2.02m such sites according to new research from Atlas VPN (opens in new tab).

Cybercriminals often create copies of popular websites in an effort to lure unsuspecting users to enter their sensitive details such as their login credentials or credit card information.

According to Google's Transparency Report (opens in new tab), an average of 46 thousand phishing sites were detected every week this year. The data also reveals that there were two huge spikes in malicious websites during the first half of 2020 that reached over 58 thousand detections per week at their peaks. However, the second half of the year seemed more stable with around 45 thousand new phishing sites registered every seven days.

One of the reasons that Altas VPN believes there were more phishing sites created in 2020 than in previous years is due to the fact that more users were online while quarantining at home and more employees were working from home (opens in new tab) during that time. This created opportunities for cybercriminals who exploited users' fears of the virus to lead them to a greater number of fake, malicious websites.

Record year for phishing

In order to take a look at wider phishing trends, Atlas VPN's research team analyzed phishing site data since the first quarter of 2015 to discover that 2020 is the year with the most new phishing sites to date.

The 2.02m phishing sites registered by Google represent a 19.91 percent increase from last year when malicious site volume reached 1.69m. At the same time, the average year-by-year change in phishing websites revealed a 12.89 percent growth since 2015 and all three quarters in 2020 had more malicious site detection than any of the previous year's quarters.

In its report (opens in new tab) on the matter, Atlas VPN's John C. explained that panic was one of the leading drivers in the increase in the number of phishing sites registered this year, saying:

“It is quite easy to correlate the pandemic with the increase in phishing attacks, not only because of the increased internet usage but also due to the panic. Panic leads to irrational thinking, and people forget basic security steps online. Users then download malicious files or try to purchase in-demand items from unsafe websites, in result becoming victims of a scam.”

In order to avoid falling victim to phishing attacks, users should carefully check the URL of each site they visit, ensure that the websites they visit use HTTPS (opens in new tab) and not HTTP and check for spelling and grammar mistakes as they can be a major red flag.

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.