Human Factor Cybersecurity Report Released by Proofpoint

The human factor continues to be extensively exploited by cybercriminals according to the annual human factor cybersecurity report from Proofpoint. While hacks are still commonplace, cybercriminals are mostly relying on some interaction from employees to steal funds from bank accounts, obtain login credentials and sensitive data, and infect end points and networks with malware and ransomware.

The data for the latest report come from Proofpoint’s 6,000+ customers and was collected throughout 2017. The report reveals some of the major cyberattack trends, including attacks on cloud applications, email, and social media channels.

The exploitation of vulnerabilities in software is still the modus operandi of several major cybercriminal groups, although it is the exploitation of human nature that was the major focus for cybercriminals in 2017. “Threat actors continue to find new ways to exploit our natural curiosity, desire to be helpful, love of a good bargain, and even our time constraints to convince us to click,” said Kevin Epstein, VP of Threat Operations for Proofpoint.

Email remains one of the most commonly used attack vectors, with 80% of those attacks used to deliver banking Trojans and ransomware. Banking Trojans account for 30% of malicious email attachments in Europe, Australia and Japan.

The response rate to phishing emails is high and clicks on malicious links in emails occur rapidly. 52% of clicks occur within an hour of delivery, with 30% occurring within ten minutes.

The most common type of fraudulent emails contained Dropbox links, which were more than twice as popular as the second most common phishing lure. However, the most likely lure to receive a response were DocuSign-related phishing emails, which had twice the click rate as Dropbox phishing lures. The high success rate of email fraud using language related to legal advice has seen the use of these lures increase 1,850% in a year.

The industry most affected by email fraud attacks was education, which had more than four times the volume of email fraud attacks as any other vertical. Education saw a 120% rise in email fraud attacks in the past 12 months.  On average, there were more than 250 attacks per organization. Overall the most phished industries were construction, manufacturing, and technology.

Healthcare, manufacturing, and technology were the top targets for crimeware aimed at obtaining data to be used for identity theft.

BEC attacks are also on the rise. 80% of organizations assessed for the report had experienced at least one BEC attack.

The use of typosquatting and fake domains is proving to be a major problem for large enterprises. There are now around 20 fake domains registered for every genuine brand-related domain registered by a company.

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of