Spear Phishing – The Scale of The Problem

The rise of highly targeted email attacks – known as spear phishing or business email compromise – is one of the most worrying developments in cyber attacks over the last year.

The well researched threat
Sophisticated threat actors are increasingly investing time in getting to know their victims – their names, email addresses and even the business processes within their organizations.

In fact, Trend Micro research revealed that nearly half of the total number of spear phishing recipient email addresses can be found through Google search.

With such information readily available online, savvy cyber criminals are equipped with the resources to create carefully engineered emails that successfully trick users into handing over confidential information or making fraudulent payments.

A growing problem
According to a recent FBI investigation, this type of crime is on the rise and 7000 companies have had their business email compromised by successful spear phishing attacks within the last three years.

Top targets by sector
Investigations by Trend Micro have shown that the government sector and activist groups are the most targeted sectors of advanced persistent threats (APT) related spear phishing attacks.

Avenues of attack
The dominance of email within businesses means that it continues to be the main attack vector for distributing spear-phishing attacks. According to Trend Micro, 91% of targeted attacks involve spear phishing emails.

The cost and impact
While estimates about the cost of spear phishing attacks vary, experts agree that it’s now in the billions.

The FBI claims that the loss from business email compromise has now reached over $2 billion within the last two years. In total, there have been 12,000 victims globally that have experienced an average loss of $120,000 each.

Given the scale of the problem, it’s no surprise that organizations rank preventing targeted email attacks, data breaches and financial loss as their biggest priorities for 2016.

More must be done to restore trust to the email ecosystem and prevent fraudulent emails from even making it into the inbox.

To find out more, listen to our webinar on Email Security Protection: Predictions and Pivots for 2016.