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Mimecast: ‘Impersonation’ Email Attacks Now All Too Common

Phishing

Security providers, as well as enterprises, need to do much more to bring the state of email security to a good place, according to Mimecast, which released its third annual State of Email Security report Wednesday.

The report was conducted by Vanson Bourne and includes insights from more than 1,000 global IT decision-makers. Findings include organizations’ perspectives on email-based attacks, where businesses are missing the mark with internal cybersecurity awareness training, and the need for timely threat intelligence plans and enhanced cyber resilience strategies.

Mimecast's Matthew Gardiner

Mimecast’s Matthew Gardiner

Matthew Gardiner, Mimecast’s director of security marketing, tells us security professionals and their organizations need to adjust their focus from prevention to resilience.

“Given the critical nature of email to organizations, the utility of it to attackers, and susceptibility of employees to highly socially engineered phishes, the goal of cyber resilience for email is much more attainable, while meeting the primary business needs of the organizations,” he said.

According to the report, 61% of organizations believe it’s likely or inevitable they’ll suffer a negative business impact from an email-borne attack. And in the last year, more than 85% of respondents experienced an impersonation attack, with 73% of impersonation attack victims experiencing a financial loss as a direct result.

In addition, a whopping 94% experienced phishing attacks in the last year. Fifty-four percent of respondents saw phishing attacks increase, 65% saw impersonation attacks increase and 41% saw internal threats or data leaks increase.

More than half of organizations surveyed were hit by a ransomware attack that directly impacted business operations, nearly double last year’s figure of 27%. Eighty-six percent of organizations that experienced an impactful ransomware attack suffered at least two days of downtime as a result, with three days being the average amount of downtime.

On average, it will cost businesses close to $4 million when a breach occurs, according to the report, and nearly four in 10 of those that suffered losses from email-based impersonation attacks noted data loss as what hurt their organization the most.

“It is not that organizations aren’t making cybersecurity a top priority; they often are,” Gardiner said. “It is more that they are struggling to deliver given the changing focus and nature of attacks, the technical debt that has built up over the years in their IT applications and infrastructure, the complexity and disjointed nature of their existing security systems, and the lack of available security expertise for hire. This complexity is the friend of the attacker, not the defender.”

Nearly all organizations offer cybersecurity and awareness training to employees, but the most widely used method of awareness training happens in a group session, which doesn’t translate as well, according to Mimecast.

“Security awareness training needs to be engaging – mostly humorous – frequent enough to be top of mind, but brief enough to not be a burden on the everyday employee,” Gardiner said. “This is generally beyond the capability of most security and training teams, and as such should be subscribed to as opposed to being built in-house.”

There is some good news in the report, he said. The research revealed that more than 90% of organizations are already using some threat intelligence sources, and 44% of respondents currently see threat intelligence as extremely important to their organizations, he said.

“These statistics are a strong sign that organizations are not going it alone,” Gardiner said. “Given that attackers collaborate all the time, it is great to see that the defenders are collaborating by sharing this type of intelligence. Another element of good news is that those organizations that are mature in the implementation of their cyber resilience strategies are seeing positive results, namely: reduced losses from email impersonations, faster recovery times after an attack, and a lower rate of the internal spread of malicious activity.”


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