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%

 

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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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