Social engineered response-based email is an increasing threat to organizations

Published: Wednesday, 17 August 2022 08:58

Response-based attacks targeting corporate inboxes have climbed to their highest volume since 2020, representing 41 percent of all email-based scams targeting employees, during Q2 of this year. This is according to the latest Quarterly Threat Trends & Intelligence Report from Agari and PhishLabs, part of the HelpSystems cyber security portfolio.  

From April through June 2022, researchers at Agari and PhishLabs analyzed hundreds of thousands of phishing and social media attacks targeting enterprises and their employees. The report uses the data from those attacks to present key trends shaping the threat landscape.

A response-based threat is a social-engineering attack that relies on victims responding through a chosen channel of communication, and comprises methods such as phishing (targeting victims over email), vishing / smishing (over a voice call or an SMS text message) and advance-fee fraud where victims are tricked into sending an upfront-fee in exchange for a larger sum of money.

According to the report, advance-fee scams represented 54 percent of all response-based email threats in Q2. This threat type has seen a 3.4 percent increase in share of reports so far in 2022, and routinely occupies the majority of response-based attacks. Business email compromise (BEC), where threat actors pose as a trusted source, such as a company employee or third-party contractor, also experienced an increase in Q2, contributing to 16 percent of overall attack volume. And while the share of attacks was down from Q1 among other threats within the response-based category, hybrid vishing (email-initiated voice phishing) attacks also increased by volume, reaching a six-quarter high in Q2, increasing 625 percent in volume from Q1 2021.

Additional key findings from the report include:

More details.