August 27, 2015 By Shane Schick 2 min read

Phishing attacks are taking up close to five hours of employees’ time a year and costing $3.7 million to large organizations, according to recent research. That’s despite the fact that proper education and training could save those businesses almost half that amount.

A recent report from the Ponemon Institute showed that the true cost of phishing attacks was nearly split between actual financial damages and the productivity hit organizations take in responding to data breaches. It also found that, even with automated training programs costing less than $5 per staff member, organizations could see a return on investment of 20 or even 50 times that amount.

One of the authors of the report told CSO Online that setting up a mock phishing attack may be one of the best ways to determine how susceptible employees are to social engineering tricks from cybercriminals. Overall, the amount of time such training takes will have an impact on the cost savings, but the average improvement in click-through rates on bogus emails and the like are probably well worth the effort.

Some of the numbers in the Ponemon report should be enough to get almost any CISO more focused on training initiatives. Infosecurity Magazine highlighted the fact that uncontained malware — which is largely distributed via phishing attacks that try to get access to employee credentials — can cost nearly $106 million per year for a company of average size.

A good example of how this works happened just a few weeks ago. According to PC Gamer, Epic Games began warning consumers that cybercriminals were sending out email messages with phony links that asked recipients to click suspicious links and offer up information. This took place not long after the studio’s online forums had been hacked, showing that cybercriminals are not content to limit their tactics to merely one vector, particularly if their initial efforts are successful.

While organizations may sometimes feel like they’re on their own, law enforcement agencies do manage to nab some of the worst offenders. UPI reported that police recently arrested Sanford Wallace, who plead guilty to using phishing attacks via 27 million spam messages on Facebook. But it’s impossible to capture all cybercriminals, so organizations will have to do their part to stay secure and avoid phishing attacks.

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