By Denise A. Valdez

THE PHILIPPINES recorded the highest number of users victimized by online phishing attacks in the first half of the year, a report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said.

In a statement, the Russia-based company said it recorded more than 14 million phishing attempts in Southeast Asia during the January to June period, of which 1.5 million were directed to the Philippines.

While the highest number of attacks were detected in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, which posted an 11 million combined phishing attempts during the period, the Philippines showed the highest number of successful phishing attacks.

“In Kaspersky’s phishing statistics for the first half of 2019, it shows the Philippines has the highest percent of phishing victims at 17.3%. The growth posted is a whopping 65.56% higher compared with the data for the same period last year at 10.449%,” it said.

Phishing is a kind of cyber attack that tries to direct users to websites that attempt to extract private information from a browsing device.

“This old but effective threat is real in Southeast Asia and shows no signs of fading anytime soon. The region is composed of many young and highly-mobile populations and admit or not, we need to educate them on the risks of basic attacks like phishing,” Kaspersky General Manager for Southeast Asia Yeo Siang Tiong said in the statement.

Aside from the Philippines, Kaspersky said Malaysia also saw an increased number of phishing victims to 15.829% of users in the first semester from 11.253% last year. Indonesia jumped to 14.316% from 10.719%, Thailand to 11.972% from 10.9%, Vietnam to 11.703% from 9.481% and Singapore to 5% from 4.142%.

“[A]s long as individuals will continue to let their guards down when using the internet, we can be sure that we’d keep on counting phishing victims again and again,” Mr. Yeo added.

Information that are extracted from phishing attacks are often sold in the dark web, Kaspersky said. These information could range from credit card numbers to passwords that would grant access to bank accounts and other financial records.

“It’s seriously alarming that phishing tricks are still very effective… Our latest data proves that we really need to work on turning the internet users in the region into well-informed and meticulous recipients who would be able to recognize such fraudulent ancient tricks,” Mr. Yeo said.