Highly targeted spear phishing attacks are some of the most dangerous attacks on the web, and one of the preferred methods of persistent threats. When it comes to high level hacks like the Russian DNC hack of 2016, spear phishing is often the weapon of choice. In this article, we’ll walk you through some enlightening spear phishing statistics.
1. 65% of Targeted Attacks by Hacker Groups Involve Spear Phishing
For active hacker groups targeting specific organizations or individuals, spear phishing was the preferred attack vector. Overall, 65% of targeted attacks involved spear phishing.
When it came to the motivation for the targeted attacks, intelligence gathering was the goal in 96% of cases.
2. 88% of Organizations Faced Spear Phishing Attacks During a Single Year
In 2019, 88% of organizations were targeted by at least one spear phishing attack. Among them, 28% experienced between one and ten incidents, while 37% experienced 11 to 50. Ten percent had 50 to 100 known attacks, while 9% were targeted more than 100 times. Four percent of organizations were unsure about the total number of attacks they faced during that year.
[Source: Proof Point]
3. 95% of Successful Enterprise Network Attacks Involve Spear Phishing
When it comes to enterprise network attacks specifically, spear phishing is the favored approach. Overall, 95% of such intrusions are tied to spear phishing.
[Source: Security Intelligence]
4. 87% of Spear Phishing Attacks Occur During the Workweek
Spear phishing is generally a weekday activity in the eyes of attackers, with 87% of attacks occurring during a traditional Monday through Friday workweek. A mere 13% of spear phishing attacks occur on weekends.
The likely reason is that most spear phishing attacks focus on companies and corporate assets. As a result, it’s more effective to reach out when people are in the office. Additionally, if the attacker is masquerading as a legitimate business professional, spear phishing attempts during odd hours could signal the target that something is amiss.
5. Tuesday Is the Most Popular Day for Spear Phishing
While it’s only slightly more popular for attacks, more spear phishing attempts occur on Tuesdays than any other day. It’s possible that it’s somewhat favored since people may be dealing with a backlog of workplace email on Monday, making it seem less opportune.
Among the weekdays, Friday is the least popular day at 14%. However, that’s still twice the activity as people see on Saturdays, as it only has 7% of attacks. Sunday is the least popular day, with 6% of the activity.
6. SolarWinds Hackers Target Around 3,000 Emails in Spear Phishing Attempt
The SolarWinds hackers targeted approximately 3,000 email accounts spread across 150 organizations in a spear phishing attempt. The efforts of the Russian hackers appeared to be related to intelligence gathering based on the agencies involved.
The group relied on authentic-looking emails that stated they contained details about 2020 election fraud claims. Within the message was a malicious link that, once clicked, gave hackers access to then-compromised machines.
[Source: AP News]
7. Spear Phishing Attachments and Links Are 2 of the Top 3 Techniques for Gaining Access
Among the top three techniques for establishing initial access, spear phishing attachments and spear phishing links both make an appearance. The third favored approach is exploiting public-facing applications.
8. The Cost of Phishing Scams Tripled in 6 Years
Between 2015 and 2021, the cost of phishing scams tripled. For a company with 9,600 employees, the average annual cost comes in near $14.8 million as of 2021. That breaks down to about $1,500 per worker. Back in 2015, the average cost was, comparatively, a mere $3.8 million.
[Source: Proof Point]
9. Scammer Used Spear Phishing to Steal More Than $100 Million from Google and Facebook
In one of the highest-profile spear phishing attacks, Evaldas Rimasauskas orchestrated a scheme targeting two tech giants: Facebook and Google. A fake business was set up that was explicitly designed to pose as a legitimate business that worked with Google and Facebook, giving the scammer a solid attack vector.
Phishing emails were sent out to employees that contained fake invoices that resembled real ones from the legitimate company. Since multi-million-dollar invoices from the legitimate business weren’t uncommon, employees paid the face invoices, allowing the scammers to gather up more than $100 million. Evaldas Rimasauskas was eventually caught and pleaded guilty to the associated crimes.
10. 12 Russian Operatives Were Behind Spear Phishing Attack Resulting in DNC Email Leak, Compromising More Than 19,000 Emails and Over 8,000 Attachments
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) email hack was the direct result of spear phishing. Twelve Russian operatives were deemed behind the attack, creating emails that were designed to mimic security updates from Google. The messages prompted those targeted to use a link to update their passwords.
That link was malicious, giving the attackers access to hundreds of emails containing sensitive campaign details. Along with campaign data, personal information on donors was also compromised.
Among the stolen information were over 19,000 emails. More than 8,000 attachments were also acquired during the attack.