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12/13/2016
09:20 AM
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91% Of Cyberattacks Start With A Phishing Email

Phishing remains the number one attack vector, according to a new study that analyzes why users fall for these lures.

The majority of cyberattacks begin with a user clicking on a phishing email. Ever wondor why users continue to fall for phishing emails?

According to a new report from PhishMe that found that 91% of cyberattacks start with a phish, the top reasons people are duped by phishing emails are curiosity (13.7%), fear (13.4%), and urgency (13.2%), followed by reward/recognition, social, entertainment, and opportunity.

"Fear and urgency are a normal part of every day work for many users," says Aaron Higbee, co-founder and CTO of PhishMe. "Most employees are conscientious about losing their jobs due to poor performance and are often driven by deadlines, which leads them to be more susceptible to phishing."

Higbee says PhishMe based the study on more than 40 million simulation emails by about 1,000 of its customers around the world. The study took place over an 18-month span from January 2015 through July 2016.

Among the study’s top findings:

  • Susceptibility to phishing email drops almost 20% after a company runs just one failed simulation. So people do learn.
  • Reporting rates significantly outweigh susceptibility rates when simple reporting is deployed to more than 80% of a company’s population, even in the first year.
  • Active reporting of phishing email threats can reduce the standard time for detection of a breach to 1.2 hours on average – a significant improvement over the current industry average of 146 days. This was an important aspect of this report, notes Higbee, who says the study also includes results from more than 300,000 users in organizations that actively use the PhishMe Reporter tool for more than one year.
  • The study also found that users respond to Locky ransomware's phishing lures (21.5%) more than any other malware variant. The others that followed Locky included order confirmation (17%), job application received (15.5%), and blank email (11.9%).

Higbee adds that Locky's phishing campaign has been effective for the following reasons: It is presented in a business context; it’s personalized to the recipient; there are no noticeable errors in grammar or spelling; and finally, it mimics many organizations’ existing invoice processes.

When PhishMe analyzed the Locky data in vertical industries it found that the response rates in the insurance industry were more than one in three (34.7%), while other high response rates occurred in the retail industry at 31.7%; energy, 27.8%; and healthcare at 24.9%.

"We don’t really know why insurance was the leading vertical," Higbee says. "It could be that there’s not enough training or insurance workers tend to interact with many external people so the chance for them to receive a phishing email increases."

Here’s a look at the average response rate by industry when PhishMe analyzed the "file from scanner" benchmark simulation:

 

Transportation      49%

Healthcare             31%

Insurance               30%

Pharma/Biotech     30%

Energy                    24%

Retail                       16%

Consulting               14%

Utilities                    14%

Technology              10%

Non-Profits                 5%

 

Related Content: 

Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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hxrrison
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hxrrison,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2016 | 11:24:31 AM
Hmm Phishy
Phishing threat is reduced when phishing drills are run. Funny that a company that does that exact thing would come up with that solution.
Row3n
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Row3n,
User Rank: Strategist
12/14/2016 | 10:16:38 PM
Re: Hmm Phishy
You would think that by now that people would have the sense to see these "congratulations you've won a million dollars" emails and know better! I mean, of course hackers are getting more and more sophisticated, but a great number of these crazy spam emails are obvious as heck that that's precisely what they are!
davburnett
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davburnett,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/25/2017 | 6:08:27 AM
Re: Hmm Phishy
What's most concerning is the number of CISO's and IT people in a position of responsibility that believe training/human awareness is the answer to protecting against phishing attacks.
goldhand
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goldhand,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2018 | 6:12:16 AM
Great!
I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. I'm able to bookmark your site and show the kids check out up here generally. Im fairly positive theyre likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone.

slope
Ritu_G
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Ritu_G,
User Rank: Moderator
8/19/2018 | 10:53:16 PM
Re: Great!
This is the exact reason why internet users need to be on their guards at all times. Do not be so naïve and believe everything they see or read on the internet. Prevention is always better than cure and once you have gotten hit, most often than not, there is no turning back. Whatever you read on the internet that is too good to be true, it usually is. Hence, do not fall for anything that may look a little less convincing.
nelly.bs
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100%
nelly.bs,
User Rank: Guru
2/27/2019 | 5:28:05 PM
Re: Great!
We don't really know why insurance was the leading vertical

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ludovic_rembert
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ludovic_rembert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/21/2019 | 9:18:23 AM
Lack of secure email is the problem
The study is alarming... and when you consider that many folks around the world still aren't fully "plugged in" to email (yet), the rate of phisphing will only increase. A similar study from the FTC found that phisphing increased by 2,370% between 2015 and 2016. At that rate, it's easy to throw our collective hands up and think, why bother pursuing this? The truth is, that all of us writing this and reading this article most likely have at least a rudimentary grasp on spotting scams and email best practices. Unfortunately, it's usually the poor and downtrodden who tend to fall victim to phisphing scams, "hoping" for some better way out of a bad situation. The issue is that hundreds of millions of users forego secure/encrypted email platforms, such as Tutanota or any of these others. Instead, they gravitate towards a few ESPs like Outlook/Live (which was recently breached), Gmail (which has privacy concerns), and Yahoo!/Hotmail (do people still use these?). 
PhishProtection
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PhishProtection,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2019 | 10:58:18 PM
Update of stats?
Is there an update of these stats available? we're trying to get a feed of all live phishnig threats as they happen in 2019 over at phishprotection.com There's a ton of new malware, phishing schemes, ransomware etc since this report so an updated cyber security report would be nice to have.
helenaorstem
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helenaorstem,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/3/2019 | 1:57:33 PM
Re: Update of stats?
I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. I'm able to bookmark your site and show the kids check out up here generally. Im fairly positive theyre likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone. In addition, how should we take our security measures in 2020?
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