NewsMarch 22, 2018 @ 1:21 PM

Forty Percent of Email Fraud Attacks Against US Businesses Resulted in an Employee’s Termination, Survey Reveals

Companies in the U.S. fired an employee after 40 percent of email fraud attacks that occurred over the past two years, a new survey revealed.

According to Proofpoint’s “Understanding Email Fraud” report, U.S. organizations fired responsible personnel following a business email compromise (BEC) attack more often than companies in all other countries. Australian firms terminated someone in response to slightly more than 25 percent of strikes, while companies in the U.K. and Germany did so even less frequently. Organizations in France fired employees in roughly 15 percent fraud cases, the lowest total of the countries included in the study. Overall, businesses around the world terminated employees after nearly 1 in 4 attacks.

A Pervasive Threat

For the survey, Proofpoint commissioned Censuswide to speak to people at companies with 200 or more employees across various industries about their experiences with email fraud attacks. The firm queried 2,250 individuals in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Australia to determine how businesses are affected by BEC, who is most at risk and how organizations are protecting themselves, if at all.

The responses revealed that email fraud attacks are pervasive around the world. Respondents from three-quarters of organizations surveyed told Censuswide that their employer suffered an attack in the last two years, while 41 percent reported that their company was hit more than once.

Firing responsible personnel was just one consequence of email fraud addressed in the study. In 55.7 percent of cases, organizations suffered downtime or other business disruptions. Meanwhile, companies lost sensitive data in roughly half of BEC instances and lost funds to cybercriminals in about one-third of such attacks.

Driving Awareness Around Email Fraud

Robert Holmes, vice president of email security products for Proofpoint, said he believes that BEC scams are so prolific because of their simplicity. These campaigns involve small distribution operations rather than malicious attachments or links, party because the attackers attempt to impersonate people in positions of authority within those organizations.

This make email fraud “extremely difficult to detect and stop with traditional security tools,” according to Holmes, as quoted by Infosecurity Magazine. “Our research underscores that organizations and board rooms have a duty to equip the entire workforce with the necessary solutions and training to protect everyone against this growing threat,” he continued.

The Proofpoint survey noted that most organizations can do more to protect against BEC attacks by implementing phishing awareness programs and creating business controls to stop fraudulent wire transfers. It also highlighted the importance of implementing security measures such as end-to-end encryption, access controls and email authentication.

David Bisson

Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley Security News and Associate Editor for Tripwire's "The State of Security" blog.