Report: Phishing Attacks Grew 28% Across 2021

In December 2021, enterprises averaged around 68 attacks per month on social media alone.

Phishing attacks grew rapidly last year, rising in 2021 by 28% over the previous year.

That’s according to a new report out this month from PhishLabs, a security company that specializes in addressing phishers. Social media phishing threats are also way up, growing at an even faster pace.

Here’s what the latest data on phishing can tell us about the state of internet security in 2022, and how your business can stay relatively secure amid it.

Phishing Growth

The analysis was titled ‘Quarterly Threat Trends & Intelligence February 2022,’ and looked at hundreds of thousands of incidents. That big 28% uptick refers to the number of phishing sites targeting either enterprises, their employees, or their brands, as identified by the security company.

“Despite outpacing last year’s volume, month-to-month phishing activity in 2021 proved to be erratic. Phishing volume ranged from a two-year high in May to a nearly two-year low in December. October attack volume was similar year-over-year, while November attacks represented the third highest reported monthly volume in 2021,” the report says.

Phishing involves tricking a victim rather than a hack that might more require more technical knowledge, or that could be stopped with a simple VPN, which might explain why it has continued to grow as a popular form of attack over the past few years.

Whatever the case, it’s currently the biggest threat a small business is likely to face when its employees are regularly on laptops or phones: “Phishing remained the most dominant attack method across all online threats,” the report concludes.

Social Media Phishers Doubled in 2021

Phishing attackers aren’t just targeting the relatively small pool of NFT owners, either. Instead, threats on social media were a big area of growth for the phishing racket.

On average, enterprises tracked in January 2021 saw a little over one threat per day, a number which grew until, by December, enterprises averaged around 68 attacks per month — over two per day, and a boost of 103% threats per target since the start of the year.

When it comes to businesses, specific industries saw the most threats by far in Q4: Together, the Financial, Telecommunications, and Social Media Industries were “responsible for nearly 98% of all phishing sites.” Of these, the Financial industry alone saw the biggest chunk, with 61.2% of attacks targeting them.

Can You Stay Safe?

Plenty of internet tools can keep you safe. But think twice before you opt for any free version, because the report had one last revelation to share: Half of all phishing sites observed in the study were staged using a free tool or service, including Tunneling Services, Free Hosting, URL Shorteners, and Free Domain Registrations.

If you’re looking for paid tools, a good business VPN can start as low as a few dollars per month — we’ve rounded up the top options here. Business password managers will offer more support against a phishing scam, however, as the best ones will flag suspicious requests for login information. You can find our top recommended password management tools over here.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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