The latest phishing email statistics released by the anti-phishing training company PhishMe show the extent to which the use of phishing has increased in recent months.

PhishMe compiles quarterly phishing email statistics and tracks the volume of phishing emails being sent. During the first three months of 2016, the volume of phishing emails increased by a staggering 789%. More than 6.3 million more phishing emails were sent in Q1, 2016 than in Q4, 2015.

According to the quarterly report, the biggest problem currently faced by personal and corporate computer users is ransomware. Ransomware emails now account for more than 93% of all phishing emails. Ransomware offers a quick payout for cybercriminals and the campaigns can be quickly developed and run. In fact, ransomware emails are being sent by criminals with little or no programming skill. They can simply purchase ransomware kits on darknet marketplaces and obtain a cut of the ransom payments that are made.

Targeted ransomware attacks are now being conducted on businesses of all sizes. Criminals are well aware that many organizations do not regularly perform backups of critical data. Even when backups are performed, many organizations do not unplug their backup devices. The latest ransomware variants are capable of deleting Windows shadow copies and encrypting backup files on connected storage devices. This gives organizations no alternative but to pay the ransom demand to recover files. The biggest threat is now Locky. Locky is delivered via spam email using JSDropper or malicious Word macros.

PhishMe’s phishing email statistics also show two other main trends. Cybercriminals are tending to concentrate on soft-targeted campaigns. Spear phishing emails target just one or two individuals, but the latest trend sees malicious emails messages sent to a group of individuals in an organization – the billing department for instance. The emails are targeting specific roles in an organization rather than specific individuals.

The phishing email statistics also show a rise in the use of JSDropper applications. JSDropper applications are now present in around a third of all phishing emails. Malicious Word macros are still extensively used to infect computers with malware and ransomware, but JavaScript applications are now the most common type of malicious files sent in phishing emails according to the report.

The increase in malicious spam email shows how important it is for organizations to employ a robust spam filtering solution – SpamTitan for example – and to also ensure that employees are informed of the high risk of phishing attacks occurring. Employees should also be instructed how to identify phishing emails and told how they should respond if they believe they have been sent a malicious email message.