Study: Phishing Messages Elude Filters, Frequently Hit Untrained Users

Many users don't know how to respond to fraudulent email, according to survey of Black Hat attendees



Many users are faced with multiple phishing messages every day, but few are trained in how to recognize or respond to them, according to a study released today.

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In a survey of 250 attendees at last month's Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of security professionals said they encounter phishing messages that get past anti-spam filters and reach users’ email boxes at least a few times a week. Almost a quarter of the respondents said they see such messages in users’ mailboxes multiple times every day, according to the study, which was conducted by security firm PhishMe.

"There are a lot of people who think that because they have a spam filter, they are safe," says Scott Greaux, vice president of product management at PhishMe. "But we see in the survey that it's not just the occasional phishing message that gets through -- in some cases, users are getting multiple messages every day."

More than one quarter (27 percent) of the Black Hat respondents said that top executives or other privileged users in their enterprises have been compromised by spear-phishing attacks within the past 12 months. Another 31 percent of security pros said they weren’t sure whether their executives or privileged users had been hit with such attacks.

PhishMe, which offers a service that helps users recognize phishing and social engineering attacks, asked attendees how they are training their users in security practices.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents said their users receive training once a year; nearly one-tenth (9 percent) said their organizations have no security training programs at all. Three of the top four training methods listed by Black Hat attendees -- recorded video/computer-based training (39.3 percent), paper tests/quizzes (32.9 percent), and handbooks/printed guides (28.5 percent) -- involve no live interaction with humans.

"What that says is that not only are the phishing messages getting through, but most users aren't trained what to do when they get them," Greaux says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

 

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