Report: 15 Percent of All Emails Sent in 2023 Were Malicious

VIPRE Security Group recently released its report titled “Email Security in 2024: An Expert Look at Email-Based Threats”. The 2024 predictions for email security in this report are based on an analysis of over 7 billion emails processed by VIPRE worldwide during 2023. This equates to almost one email for everyone on the planet. Of those, roughly 1 billion (or 15%) were malicious.

This research warns that in 2024, QR code hacks or quishing will increase, use of AI to create content for spam emails including deepfakes will rise; highly personalized social media mining will grow further; and a wide array of file types and formats – especially EML – will be used to propagate phishing and malware attacks. There will also be a marked uptick in state-sponsored attacks.

As network security tools have improved in recent years, the corporate inbox has become an ever more attractive target to attackers. Often protected by nothing more than human nature and an antivirus, cybercriminals continue to use email to launch their most basic and persistent attacks. Now and again, they get a bit creative, which has come to bear in the past twelve months.

  • Clean links are duping users. When it comes to the method of attack, threat actors this past year favored links over other delivery methods (like attachments and QR codes) nearly seven to one (71%). The year before, VIPRE saw a 50/50 split, but their popularity is improving as attackers are getting smarter about what kinds of links they leverage. Based on this current trend, the use of such links are expected to increase this year, although not in the ways we might assume.
  • EML attachments defy detection. While EML attachments were a present threat throughout 2023, they increased tenfold in Q4. The benefit of sending malicious payloads via EML file is that they can get easily overlooked by many basic email security solutions when attached to the actual phishing email (which comes out clean). The malicious directions, hidden in plaintext within the body of the EML, may then encourage users to navigate to a link, call a phone number, or otherwise engage in a scam. Partly because of the novelty of EML use, curious users are prone to open, follow, and fall prey.
  • Browsers under attack. Q4’s top malware family, AgentTesla, infiltrates a target machine and harvests sensitive data off any number of qualifying browsers. This shows that attackers are launching malware merely for reconnaissance now, as valuable artifacts like username, computer name, operating system, CPU name, RAM, and IP address may fetch more on the Dark Web than they could garner in a one-off attack.
  • Malware skyrockets – still not top spot. Email-delivered malware remains a favorite, increasing by 276% between January and December of last year. However, despite the boost, it accounted for only 5% of malspam overall, trailing commercial spam (“Deal Ends Now!”), general scams, and phishing. Perhaps threat actors have found that it’s easier to trick end users than security solutions, which do manage to snag malware despite falling behind in emerging tactics like social engineering attacks. Consequently, numbers are low. The real weak link remains humans, as the prevalence of social engineering attacks will attest; of all spam emails, 35% were scams, and 22% were phishing attempts.
  • Targeted verticals. Financial services (22%) was the most targeted sector by phishing and malspam emails, followed by information technology (14%), healthcare (14%), education (10%), and government (8%). Information technology experienced a 59% increase in attacks between Q1 and Q4, whilst attacks on government inboxes went up by a staggering 16,000%.

“When you take a look at the kinds of [email] threats we’re seeing today, a lot of them are preventable. It just takes the right tools, but most companies don’t know they exist because email doesn’t always get the same kind of security attention as the rest of the network. Unfortunately, threat actors know this,” said Usman Choudhary, Chief Product Officer and General Manager, VIPRE Security Group.

To read the full report, click here.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    Perimeter Security Standards for Multi-Site Businesses

    When you run or own a business that has multiple locations, it is important to set clear perimeter security standards. By doing this, it allows you to assess and mitigate any potential threats or risks at each site or location efficiently and effectively. Read Now

  • Getting in Someone’s Face

    There was a time, not so long ago, when the tradeshow industry must have thought COVID-19 might wipe out face-to-face meetings. It sure seemed that way about three years ago. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West
  • Live From ISC West 2024: Post-Show Recap

    ISC West 2024 is complete. And from start to finish, the entire conference was a huge success with almost 30,000 people in attendance. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West
  • ISC West 2024 is a Rousing Success

    The 2024 ISC West security tradeshow marked a pivotal moment in the industry, showcasing cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions to address evolving security challenges. Exhibitors left the event with a profound sense of satisfaction, as they witnessed a high level of engagement from attendees and forged valuable connections with potential clients and partners. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation.

    Connect ONE®

    Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation. 3

  • Mobile Safe Shield

    Mobile Safe Shield

    SafeWood Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of patented bullet resistant products, is excited to announce the launch of the Mobile Safe Shield. The Mobile Safe Shield is a moveable bullet resistant shield that provides protection in the event of an assailant and supplies cover in the event of an active shooter. With a heavy-duty steel frame, quality castor wheels, and bullet resistant core, the Mobile Safe Shield is a perfect addition to any guard station, security desks, courthouses, police stations, schools, office spaces and more. The Mobile Safe Shield is incredibly customizable. Bullet resistant materials are available in UL 752 Levels 1 through 8 and include glass, white board, tack board, veneer, and plastic laminate. Flexibility in bullet resistant materials allows for the Mobile Safe Shield to blend more with current interior décor for a seamless design aesthetic. Optional custom paint colors are also available for the steel frame. 3

  • HD2055 Modular Barricade

    Delta Scientific’s electric HD2055 modular shallow foundation barricade is tested to ASTM M50/P1 with negative penetration from the vehicle upon impact. With a shallow foundation of only 24 inches, the HD2055 can be installed without worrying about buried power lines and other below grade obstructions. The modular make-up of the barrier also allows you to cover wider roadways by adding additional modules to the system. The HD2055 boasts an Emergency Fast Operation of 1.5 seconds giving the guard ample time to deploy under a high threat situation. 3