The majority of cyber attacks begin with one simple phishing email. So will it ever be possible to close this door to hackers, once and for all?
Email is incredibly useful, which is why we all still use it. But chief among its downsides (along with getting caught in a group-cc’d message hell) is that email remains one of the most common routes for hackers to attack businesses.
Around one in every hundred messages sent is a malicious hacking attempt. That might not seem like a large figure, but when millions of messages are sent every day, it adds up — especially when it just takes one employee to fall victim to a phishing message and potentially lead to a whole organisation being compromised.
For example, the cyber attack against the Democratic National Committee that led to thousands of private emails being exposed in the run up to the US Presidential election started with just one successful phishing email, while countless espionage and malware campaigns have also gained entry to organisations via an email-based attack.
But if email leaves us so vulnerable to attempts at hacking, why do we stick with it?
“Email is still the main way that two entities who may not have a relationship get together and communicate. Whether it’s a law firm communicating with a business or a candidate applying for a job, email is still the bridge to getting these entities communicating. It’s not going away,” says Aaron Higbee, co-founder and CTO at anti-phishing company Cofense.
As long as email is here, phishing will also remain a problem — and while some phishing campaigns are really sophisticated and based around cyber criminals performing deep reconnaissance on targets, other email-based attacks aren’t so sophisticated — and yet are still worryingly successful.