Even social media platforms are not as attractive as messaging apps for hackers and fraudsters to hunt prey from.

According to some researchers, messaging apps outstripped social networks by 20% in terms of popularity among users last year, and was the most popular tool for communication.

Other data also show that in 2020, the global audience for messengers amounted to 2.7bn people, and by 2023 it is expected to grow to 3.1 billion.

The widespread usage of messaging platform therefore makes the suitable for phishing. In its own research, Kaspersky has used anonymized data from its own mobile user base to find out which messenger apps are the most popular among phishing scammers.

In a study of malicious links detected in such platforms between Dec 2020 and May 2021, the leaders were WhatsApp (89.6%), followed by Telegram (5.6%). Viber is in third place with a share of 4.7% and Hangouts had less than 1%.

Countries experiencing the highest number of phishing attacks were Russia (46%), Brazil (15%) and India (7%). Globally, 480 detections were recorded per day. 

What the findings may mean

Going by the data, WhatsApp ranked highest for hosting the most numbers of malicious phishing attempts and cybercriminal activities, partly due to the fact that it was the most popular messenger globally.

The biggest share of such messages was detected in Russia (42%), while the remainder were found in Brazil (17%) and India (7%). In South-east Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the numbers were relatively low in comparison to global figures. Malicious WhatsApp messages were highest in Indonesia (0.90%), Malaysia (0.35%) and Singapore (0.08%).

Telegram harbored the least amount of detections, but it risk geography was similar to that of WhatsApp. Viber and Hangouts received even smaller numbers of recorded detections.

In terms of the number of phishing attacks recorded per user on WhatsApp, Brazil (177) and India (158) led the way. At the same time, Russian users had become leaders in the number of detections on Viber (305) and Telegram (79) compared to other countries.

Said Tatyana Shcherbakova, Senior Web Content Analyst, Kaspersky: “… Phishing in messenger apps is still one of the most popular tools among scammers. This is partly due to the wide popularity of these apps, as well as hackers’ ability to use the built-in functionality of applications to carry out attacks. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether an attack is phishing, as the difference can be just one character or a minor mistake. Vigilance combined with anti-phishing technologies are a reliable tool in the fight against phishing in messenger apps.”