Phishing attacks aimed at obtaining sensitive information have been used to compromise 45% of UK organisation in the past two years, according to research commissioned by the cyber security firm Sophos.
According to the wider research, 54% of the 906 IT directors in Western Europe said that they had identified instances of employees replying to unsolicited emails or clicking on links contained within them.
“Criminals are adept at using social engineering to exploit human weakness, so while well-trained employees are an excellent deterrent, even the best end user can slip up,” said Adam Bradley, UK managing director at Sophos. “Organisations need to ensure employees remain vigilant to the threat posed by phishing attacks and ongoing training should be part of that to spot check employees and ensure they respond correctly and continue to follow the guidelines they’ve been given.
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“Organisations should block malicious links, attachments and imposters before they reach end users’ inboxes, and use the latest cyber security tools to stop ransomware and other advanced threats from running on devices even if a user clicks a malicious link or opens an infected attachment.”
The research revealed that larger enterprises are most at risk of being compromised by phishing attacks, despite also being more likely to conduct cyber threat awareness training. More than half (56%) of businesses employing between 500 and 750 people admitted to falling victim to phishing in the last two years. By comparison, just 25% of firms with fewer than 250 people and only 36% of 250 – 499 employee organisations had been compromised by phishing in the same period.
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“Phishing affects everyone and is one of the most common routes of entry for cyber criminals,” added Bradley. “As organisations grow, their risk of becoming a victim also increases as they become more lucrative targets and provide hackers with more potential points of failure.”
Although organisations in the UK fell victim to phishing attacks at a similar rate to those in France (49%) and the Netherlands (44%), those in Ireland performed significantly better. Just 25% of Irish respondents said they had fallen victim to phishing in the last two years.