Phishing Emails Tripled in 2014, Says Kaspersky Labs

Phishing emails may not account for a high percentage of total email traffic, but they are becoming more prevalent. In fact, since 2014 the growth of these malware spreading emails has tripled, according to a new report issued by Kaspersky Labs.

Kaspersky determined that the percentage of phishing emails in total email traffic is now 0.0071%. Compare that to spam emails which accounted for 66.34% of all email traffic in the first quarter of 2014, and the figure seems very small. However, the damage that can be caused by the emails is considerable. For some companies, the damage can be catastrophic. When phishing emails lead to financial losses, funds can rarely be recovered.

Phishing emails are becoming increasingly common, but spam appears to have declined a little. A fall of 6.42% was registered since the last quarter of 2013.

Social Media Overtakes Email as Main Method of Phishing Campaign Delivery

Phishing campaigns are frequently delivered to potential victims via email. A link to a malicious website is sent – often randomly – to individuals in the hope that they are fooled into clicking. That link will take the person to a website where they are required to enter confidential data such as login names and passwords. Oftentimes, visiting the website will result in malware being downloaded to the visitor’s computer.

Spam emails are still favored by cyber criminals in some countries such as China and South Korea; however, social media has now overtaken email as the main method of delivery of phishing campaigns according to Kaspersky.

This may not come as a surprise. Rather than hackers sending the campaigns to new victims, victims of phishing campaigns share the links voluntarily (and unwittingly) via Twitter and Facebook pages. Infecting new computers could not be any easier.

Infected email attachments are still a popular method of malware and virus delivery. If these attachments are opened, the user will install malware and viruses on their device.

Top Ten Malicious Programs Spread by Email

Even with the rise in popularity of social media for malware delivery, spam emails are still responsible for spreading a huge volume of malware. In Quarter 2 of 2014 alone, Kaspersky Labs were able to block an incredible 528,799,591 malware attacks. The volume of different types of malware is also astonishing. During the same period, Kaspersky Labs detected and blocked 114,984,065 unique potentially unwanted objects.

Many of the viruses and malicious programs are camouflaged to look innocent. Take the most popular malicious program used by cyber criminals as an example. Trojan-Spy.HTML.Fraud.gen appears to be a standard HTML page containing a form for online banking. When data is entered, the information is transmitted to hackers who are then able to use the information to gain access to users’ bank accounts.

top-10-malware-spread-by-email

Cybercriminals Earning over $100 Billion a Year

Cybercriminal attacks are increasing in frequency and severity, and this is unlikely to change given the huge sums of cash that can be obtained. According to recent estimates by the FBI, the proceeds of cyber crime are in the region of $100 billion per year. The bad news is that criminals are devising ever more sophisticated ways of attacking organizations, and many of those organizations are ill-prepared to deal with the risks. Oftentimes even basic security measures against cyber attacks are found to be lacking. This is due to extremely limited IT security budgets, which hamper efforts to deal with all the threats.

Many organizations do not have clear and concise IT security policies in place, and do not place an individual in overall charge of cybersecurity. Sometimes there is not even a dedicated IT security professional employed and many organizations are still not providing all members of staff with security awareness training.

A failure to employ the appropriate staff, allocate sufficient budgets to IT security and train the staff can prove very costly indeed. Lost and stolen data, system downtime and drained bank accounts result in far heavier losses than the cost of implementing security measures to prevent attacks. Even the cost of new IT security staff will pay dividends in the long run.

Staff Security Awareness Training is Critical

Spam emails and phishing campaigns generally have one of two main aims: To trick users into revealing sensitive information or to fool people into downloading and installing malicious software and code. The latter allows hackers to take control of computers and infiltrate networks.

Spam and phishing emails can be very convincing, yet there are a number of tell-tale signs that emails are not all they appear to be. By providing training to staff members on these tell-tale signs, the risk of employees falling for a scam can be drastically reduced.

Email Security Solutions Must be Employed to Protect Sensitive Data from Attack

Can you be sure that staff members will be vigilant and security aware? Unfortunately, even with training, employees will make mistakes. They are human after all. It is therefore important to install security solutions that will limit the volume of spam emails that are delivered to employees’ inboxes.

One of the best solutions is a spam filter such as SpamTitan Anti-Spam. This data security solution has now been employed by IT security professionals in over 120 countries around the world. They benefit from being able to block over 99.7% of spam emails.

Since SpamTitan uses two separate anti-virus engines (Kaspersky AV and Clam AV) the catch rate is particularly high. Furthermore, SpamTitan includes an anti-phishing module as standard that filters out emails containing links to known malicious websites. This further reduces the risk of an employee accidentally clicking on a link and downloading malicious software. Consequently, SpamTitan is one of the best investments to protect against cyber attacks.