Owing to the ever-evolving email threat landscape, various new cyber attack vectors, high-impact issues and elaborate strategies for responding to these threats are coming into light every day. Ranging from the barrage of COVID-19-related phishing emails hitting inboxes to the sharp spike in impersonation attacks, email threats are becoming increasingly more frequent and sophisticated with time.
As per a report by CSO Online, 94% of all malware is delivered via emails. Over the years of fighting and surviving cyber crime, it has become clear that email-borne attacks have become one of the most common and severe threats globally. Spam, malware, scamming, data exfiltration, URL phishing, domain impersonation, spear phishing, brand impersonation, business email compromise (BEC), extortion and account takeover, are just a few of many threats to email security.
Top 3 Most Prevalent Email Threats
With so many email threats looming on the horizon, it is essential for both organizations and individuals to know what exactly they are facing. So, here are the most widespread email threats in the current times:
Impersonation attacks are rising dramatically every day. These kinds of attacks come in two variations: individual impersonation and brand impersonation. In individual impersonation, cyber criminals create spam and phishing emails with a forged sender address to misguide recipients about the origin of the messages. In a brand impersonation attack, cyber criminals imitate the official website of a reputable brand by using a similar URL or domain name and copying the genuine web-page’s design.
In the case of impersonation attacks, the name of a well-known brand or a trusted individual can often lull people into a false sense of security, making them more likely to give up personal information. For this reason, phishing and other kinds of email fraud heavily rely on impersonation for making the attacks more effective.
Business email compromise (BEC) attacks target businesses with the intention of defrauding the company. These attacks pose a huge problem to organizations of all sizes across all industries around the globe. These scams have already cost numerous organizations billions of dollars. As per the FBI, BEC scams can be categorized into five types- CEO fraud, account compromise, false invoice scheme, attorney impersonation and data theft.
According to Microsoft Digital Defense Report, the top ten industries targeted by BEC attacks are accounting and consulting, wholesale distribution, IT services, real estate, education, healthcare, chemicals, high-tech and electronics, legal services, and outsourced services.
As per APWG’s Phishing Activity Trends Report for Q3 2020, cyber criminals requested funds in the form of gift cards in 71% of all BEC attacks. In 6% of BEC attacks, scammers requested payroll diversions, whereas they requested direct bank transfers in 14% of all BEC attacks. The report also revealed that the average amount requested in direct wire transfer by the BEC attackers was $48,000.
COVID-19-Related Phishing Attacks
During this time of the ongoing global quarantine, the majority of the organizations around the world have shifted to remote work culture and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. This widespread transition to a remote workplace has provided cyber criminals with a variety of new tactics of committing thefts and frauds by taking advantage of the COVID-19-related fears and concerns amongst the population.
The FBI’s Cyber Division has been receiving nearly 4,000 cybersecurity complaints every day ever since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking a rise of 400% from the pre-COVID-19 days. Interpol reported 48,000 malicious URLs, 737 malware incidents, and 907,000 spam messages– all related to the pandemic in Q1 2020.
R&D and Healthcare sectors have become a target of strategic interest to cyber criminals. During H2 2020, many cyber attacks targeting COVID-19 research centers have been reported. As per the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), APT29 targeted COVID-19 vaccine development.
How to Defend Your Organization Against the Onslaught of Email Threats?
With the email threats causing disruption and creating chaos in every corner of the world, it is becoming increasingly important to make the decisions for preventing and remediating these attacks. So, here is a shortlist of basic security practices and solutions to help you safeguard your organizations from email threats:
Educate Your Employees
No matter how many security solutions or software you implement, your organization will never be safe until your employees do not understand the risk of not following proper cyber security protocols. Ignorance may be bliss, but in this case, it can be the end of your organization. Informing your employees about real threats in real-time is the best way of preventing email threats from hitting their mark.
ThreatCop is a comprehensive cyber security awareness training tool that generates awareness amongst your employees about different types of cyber threats. It allows you to simulate six kinds of dummy cyber attack campaigns on your employees to assess your organization’s real-time threat posture.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Stolen credentials often serve as the primary means of compromising organizations for cyber criminals. As millions of stolen credentials are readily available for sale on many underground forums, enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) has become extremely important.
MFA accurately verifies the identity of the person logging in by prompting users to provide an extra form of identification like a code sent to another device or a fingerprint scan. Enabling MFA on all your email channels is the best way to prevent threat actors from bypassing your email security by using stolen credentials.
Use Standard Email Authentication Protocols
Owing to the dramatic spike in impersonation attacks, it has become imperative to prevent cyber criminals from impersonating your organization’s email domain. The best way to defend your company against domain forgery is to implement standard email authentication protocols such as DMARC, DKIM and SPF.
KDMARC is an email authentication solution that vigilantly monitors all three of these outbound email authentication protocols to offer protection against advanced email threats. Besides providing you with a deep insight into your email channel, this tool also improves your domain’s email engagement and deliverability rates.
Encourage Employees to Use Strong Passwords
Using strong passwords is listed amongst the most effective and basic cyber security measures you can take. A strong password must involve both upper and lower case letters, special characters, and numbers. Also, instruct your employees to not use the same passwords across multiple platforms.
Implement a Phishing Incident Response Tool
A phishing incident response tool equips your employees to instantly report any suspicious-looking emails. It enables your organization to recognize and respond to a variety of email threats before they cause any real damage. Threat Alert Button (TAB) is one of the most efficient and reliable phishing incident response tools your organization can implement for added protection.
So, take the security measures mentioned above now to stay ahead of these email threats and reinforce your organization’s email security framework.
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