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Barracuda Report shows that 50% of organizations studied were victims of spear phishing in 2022

  • New spear phishing report by Barracuda shows that 50% of organizations studied were Barracuda Networks research finds 24% of organizations studied had at least one email account compromised through account takeover

  • On average, it takes nearly two days for organizations to detect an email security incident

  • Malicious actors send an average of 370 malicious emails from each compromised account

Barracuda Networks Inc. (Barracuda) published its 2023 spear-phishing trends report on May 24, which shows that 50% of organizations studied were victims of spear-phishing in 2022 — and 24% had at least one email account compromised through account takeover.

The report presents propriety spear-phishing data and analysis, drawing on a data set that comprises 50 billion emails across 3.5 million mailboxes, including nearly 30 million spear-phishing emails. The report also features survey findings from Barracuda-commissioned research. The survey, conducted by independent researcher Vanson Bourne, questioned IT professionals from frontline to the most senior roles at 1,350 companies with 100 to 2,500 employees, across a range of industries in the U.S., EMEA, and APAC countries.

Overall, the research shows that cybercriminals continue to barrage organizations with targeted email attacks, and many companies are struggling to keep up. While spear-phishing attacks are low-volume, they are widespread and highly successful compared to other types of email attacks.

  • Spear phishing is widespread: 50% of organizations analyzed were victims of spear phishing in 2022, and a typical organizations received 5 highly personalized spear-phishing emails per day.

  • These attacks are highly successful: Spear-phishing attacks make up only 0.1% of all e-mail based attacks, according to Barracuda data, but they are responsible for 66% of all breaches.

  • Organizations are feeling the impact: 55% of respondents that experienced a spear-phishing attack reported machines infected with malware or viruses; 49% reported having sensitive data stolen; 48% reported having stolen login credentials; and 39% reported direct monetary loss.

  • Threat detection and response remains a challenge: On average, organizations take nearly 100 hours to identify, respond to, and remediate a post-deliver email threat — 43 hours to detect the attack and 56 hours to respond and remediate after the attack is detected.

  • Remote work is increasing risks: Users at companies with more than a 50% remote workforce report higher levels of suspicious emails — 12 per day on average, compared to 9 per day for those with less than a 50% remote workforce.

  • Having more remote workers slows detection and response: Companies with more than a 50% remote workforce also reported that it takes longer to both detect and response to email security incidents — 55 hours to detect and 63 hours to response and mitigate, compared to an average of 36 hours and 51 hours respectively for organizations with fewer remote workers.

“Even though spear phishing is low volume, with its targeted and social engineering tactics, the technique leads to a disproportionate number of successful breaches, and the impact of just one successful attack can be devastating,” said Fleming Shi, CTO, Barracuda. “To help stay ahead of these highly effective attacks, businesses must invest in account takeover protection solutions with artificial intelligence capabilities. Such tools will have far greater efficacy than rule-based detection mechanisms. Improved efficacy in detection will help stop spear-phishing with reduced response needed during an attack.”

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