Reports indicate email as a more dangerous vector than other mediums

Hackers are constantly achieving their goals through the medium of emails in various ways.

In an age where cybersecurity has gained utmost importance in the world of computers, hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to scam innocent people. Symantec has given proof of a plethora of such incidents in their ISTR report, titled Email Threats 2017.

The report mentions that scammers have been distributing malicious codes through emails in the clever ways. One of the most common ways to spread malware is by sending out pdf documents that claim to be password protected — just like normal official documents circulated within organisations. People are often tricked into believing that they are safe documents with multiple levels of encryption. However, most of them contain malicious codes, which when opened, lead to infection of valuable data or spreading of deadly ransomware.

Despite several layers of security software working constantly in the background and constant education about refraining from such emails, people fall prey to hackers with malicious intentions. In fact, the report proves that email is the most commonly used infection vector on the threat landscape. One out of every nine email users will have had a malicious email sent to them in the first half of 2017. And the likelihood rises further depending on which industry the user works in. For instance, if the user is in Wholesale Trade, as they likely would in the scenario outlined above, that ratio climbs to one out of every four users.

But email with malicious code isn’t the only threat out there. Business email compromise (BEC) scams are another continuing threat. These are scenarios where a scammer impersonates someone along the lines of an executive within your company, or another person of power within the supply or administrative chains, and attempts to get users to wire money or share sensitive information with them.

The FBI estimates over US$5 billion has been stolen through these scams between late 2013 and the end of 2016. According to Symantec’s latest analysis, around 8,000 businesses were targeted by BEC scams in a given month. On average these businesses receive more than five BEC scam emails each month.

Spam also continues to be an email annoyance as well. While the spam rate has been in a slow but steady decline since 2011, the research has discovered that the spam rate may have bottomed out and is now beginning to climb again. In fact, the spam rate for the first half of 2017 hit 54 per cent, which equates to around 11 more spam emails in your inbox each month compared to a year ago.

Email is one of the most popular tools for communication, but this ubiquity has also made it a hotbed full of scammers looking to wreak havoc.


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