Using the Inc.com website to obtain domain names and a free data-gathering service to find publicly available email addresses, KnowBe4 sent out a simulated phishing email to employees at more than 3,500 companies. Individuals who clicked the link were directed to a landing page that informed them they had just taken part in phishing research. The emails were successfully delivered to about 29,000 recipients at 3,037 businesses; and in nearly 500 of those companies, one or more employees clicked the link. Because of the potential for Internet security breaches among these businesses, KnowBe4 dubbed them the FAIL500.
"Any business that provides access to email or access to its networks via the Internet is only as safe from cybercrime to the degree that its employees are trained to avoid phishing emails and other cyberheist schemes. The more employees within an organization that use email or go online, the greater the risk of exposure to cybercrime," said KnowBe4 founder and CEO Stu Sjouwerman (pronounced "shower-man").
KnowBe4 conducted a comprehensive data analysis of its FAIL500 study results, which included categorizing the companies into 25 industry sectors. The findings revealed that some industries are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime. Based on the percentage of companies in each sector that responded to the phishing email, the most Phish-prone industries are:
* Travel - 25% * Education - 22.92% * Financial Services - 22.69% * Government Services - 21.23% * IT Services - 20.44%
"Our cybercrime statistics should serve as a wake-up call to SMEs nationwide," noted Sjouwerman. "Not only are these businesses at risk for financial loss through a cyberheist, but their susceptibility to phishing tactics could compromise sensitive customer data such as credit card, bank account and social security numbers."
Sjouwerman cites a "false sense of security" as the primary reason companies are vulnerable to cybercrime. "Most people assume that antivirus software and an in-house IT team provide sufficient data security. But considering that IT is among the most Phish-prone industries, it's clear that's a very dangerous assumption to make."
Cybercriminals have become very sophisticated in their tactics, and Sjouwerman notes that they often target businesses through official-looking emails that appear to be sent by government agencies, business partners or even company executives. "Many of the top Phish-prone industries are regulated and subject to compliance rules, so well-meaning employees can be tricked into clicking a link if they believe an email was sent by a government or law enforcement agency, or by someone they know and trust. And with just one click, malware can be instantly uploaded to a system - bypassing both antivirus software and IT firewalls. A cyberheist can be underway within minutes."
According to YourMoneyIsNotSafeInTheBank.org, small-business accounts suffered more than $40 million in cybercrime losses as of 2009. The website also cites FDIC figures indicating this type of crime increased five-fold within a 12-month period, and notes that the FBI is tracking hundreds of related cases. Small and medium-sized organizations have become the primary targets of the Eastern European hacker gangs behind this frightening new crime wave. These cybercriminals tend to prey on smaller businesses and banks that lack the cyber-fraud controls many larger institutions have in place.
To help SMEs combat the growing threat of cybercrime, Sjouwerman recently published his fourth book, Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses Since the Meltdown of 2008. In addition to highlighting the results of the FAIL500 project, Cyberheist explores the business of cybercrime, examines a number of cybercrime cases and empowers readers with effective strategies for countering cyber attacks.
For more details on the KnowBe4 phishing study - including the Phish-prone percentages for all 25 industry sectors - visit http://www.knowbe4.com/fail500. Future announcements from KnowBe4 will provide further analysis on the experiment, including projections based on the FAIL500 research findings. To learn more about Cyberheist, or to order the paperback or e-book edition, visit http://www.cyberheist.com.
About Stu Sjouwerman and KnowBe4
Stu Sjouwerman is the founder and CEO of KnowBe4, LLC, which provides web-based Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) to small and medium enterprises. A data security expert with more than 30 years in the IT industry, Sjouwerman was the co-founder of Sunbelt Software, an award-winning anti-malware software company that he and his partner sold to GFI Software in 2010. Realizing that the human element of security was being seriously neglected, Sjouwerman decided to help entrepreneurs tackle cybercrime tactics through advanced Internet security awareness training. He is the author of four books, including Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses Since the Meltdown of 2008. For more information on Sjouwerman and KnowBe4, visit http://www.knowbe4.com.