IT professionals have long known that employees are a weak link in the security chain. Recent studies have confirmed this to be the case. Employees are poor at identifying phishing emails and other email-based threats and, to be fair on employees, many have received no training and phishing scams are becoming much more targeted and sophisticated.
The number of successful phishing attacks on businesses is difficult to determine, as many attacks go unreported, even when they result in the exposure of consumer data. In regulated industries, such as the healthcare industry in the United States, the picture is much clearer.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – or HIPAA as it is better known – requires healthcare organizations to report breaches of patient information. Summaries of data breaches of 500 or more records are also made public and can be seen on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights data breach portal.
In 2019 alone, there have been at least 147 incidents of hacking of email accounts. The cost of those breaches is staggering. In those 147 incidents, the hacked email accounts contained the records of 2,762,691 individuals. According to the Ponemon Institute/IBM Security 2019 Cost of a Healthcare Data Breach report, the cost per exposed healthcare record is $423. Those breaches are therefore likely to have cost $1,168,618,293.
A recent study conducted by GetApp confirmed how often employees are fooled by phishing attacks in other industries. For the study, 714 individuals were surveyed from a range of businesses in the United States. Almost a quarter of those businesses have experienced at least one successful phishing attack and 43% of employees said that someone in their organization had clicked on a phishing email.
The aim of the study was to explore whether businesses were providing security awareness training to their employees to help them identify phishing emails. Only 27% of organizations did. It is therefore no surprise that employees often fall for phishing scams.
The provision of security awareness training, with a particular focus on phishing and social engineering, is vital. Even with layered defenses, some phishing emails will arrive in inboxes, so employees need to be taught the skills they need to help them identify email threats. Employees should then be tested by conducting phishing email simulations. That allows businesses to find out if the training has been taken on board. Without training and testing, employees will remain a liability. Over time their phishing identification shills will improve.
It is worth noting that security awareness training for employees is a requirement of HIPAA, yet many employees are still fooled. Training and phishing simulations can help reduce an organization’s susceptibility to phishing attacks, but employees, being human, will still make mistakes.
The solution is layered defenses. No one cybersecurity solution will block all phishing attempts, and certainly not without also blocking many legitimate email communications. Multiple solutions are therefore required.
It is essential for advanced email security defenses to be implemented to block phishing emails and make sure phishing and malspam (spam emails containing malware) never reach inboxes. That means an advanced spam filtering solution is a must.
SpamTitan for has been independently tested and shown to block in excess of 99.9% of spam emails and 100% of emails containing known malware. SpamTitan also blocks zero-day threats using a combination of advanced detection techniques. This is achieved through heuristic analyses, blacklists, trust scores, greylisting, sandboxing, DMARC, and SPF to name just a few.
SpamTitan has also been developed to compliment Office 365 security and provide a greater level of protection against phishing and other malicious email threats. It should be noted that Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection was recently shown to allow 25% of phishing emails through.
Should phishing emails arrive in inboxes and be opened by end users, other controls are required to prevent clicks from resulting in malware infections or the theft of credentials. Here a web filtering solution such as WebTitan is important. When a link in an email is clicked, before the webpage is displayed, the URL and the content of the webpage is checked and the user is prevented from visiting the webpage if it, or its domain, is associated with phishing or malware distribution. Malware downloads can also be blocked from websites, even those with a high trust score. Together these solutions form the backbone of your phishing defenses. Further, these two solutions are quick and easy to implement, simple to use and maintain, and they are inexpensive.
Add antivirus protection, multi-factor authentication, and end user training, and you will be well protected from phishing and email and web-based malware attacks.
For further information on improving your defenses against phishing, spear phishing, and malware, give the TitanHQ team a call today.
If you are a managed service provider, contact the TitanHQ channel team and discover why TitanHQ is the leading provider of cloud-based email and web security solutions for MSPs serving the SMB market.