The Golden Hour of Phishing Emails

IBM recently conducted research into the attack potency and time-to-infection of email phishing attacks. One of its findings was eye-popping: Fifty percent of phishing victims’ credentials are harvested by cybercriminals within the first 60 minutes of phishing emails being received. Given that a typical phishing campaign takes at least one hour to be identified by IT security vendors — which doesn’t include the time required to take down the phishing website — analysts have dubbed the first 60 minutes of a phishing site’s existence the crucial “golden hour.”

The fact that so many Internet users visit a phishing website within such a short period of time means that blocking a phishing website (which is sometimes a cracked legitimate site) within this golden hour has become absolutely critical.

The Timely Prevention of Phishing Emails

During the golden hour, IBM research suggests that:

  • More than 50 percent of stolen credentials are harvested.
  • Within five hours, more than 80 percent are collated and become usable by cybercriminals.
  • The first 10 hours produce more than 90 percent of the total credentials that will be stolen by any given phishing site.

Therefore, blocking a phishing site after five to 10 hours is practically irrelevant.

A more effective model would prevent users from being directed to a phishing site and/or prevent them from entering their credentials if they do end up on a criminal site.

This industry’s goal should be to reduce the time it takes for institutions to detect if they are being targeted by a phishing attack from hours to within minutes of the first customer attempting to access a rogue phishing page. Businesses also need to establish quick feeds into browsers and other security tactics so that phishing filters can be updated much more quickly than they are today. This is the only way to swiftly take down phishing emails and websites, protect customers and conquer the golden hour.

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Amit Klein

CTO, Trusteer, an IBM company

As Trusteer’s CTO, Amit Klein is responsible for researching and introducing game changing technologies into Trusteer’s products, with particular focus on Turtseer’s enterprise solutions. Prior to that, Mr. Klein established, managed and grew the company’s security group, which is one of the world’s leading financial malware research groups. Prior to Trusteer, Mr. Klein was Chief Scientist at Cyota Inc. (acquired by RSA Security), a leading provider of layered authentication solutions. In this role, Mr. Klein researched technologies that prevent online fraud, phishing, and pharming and filed several patents in those areas. Prior to this, Mr. Klein worked as Director of Security and Research at Sanctum, Inc. (acquired by Watchfire, now part of IBM Security Systems), where he was responsible for the security content of all Sanctum products. Mr. Klein holds a B.Sc. (cum laude) in Mathematics and Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (through IDF’s Talpiot programme). Mr. Klein is a world-renowned security researcher, having published more than thirty articles, papers and technical notes on the topic of Internet security. He was named CTO of the Year by InfoWorld Magazine and has presented at many prestigious conferences including RSA US, FSISAC, OWASP, Microsoft BlueHat, InterOp USA, AusCERT and CertConf.