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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