Q1 2019 Report: Email Fraud & Identity Deception Trends

Email remains the killer app for communication and collaboration in both business and everyday life. But it’s under attack like never before. A lack of built-in authentication has long given fraudsters the ability to send an email claiming to be someone else. But today, a new generation of cybercriminal organizations is the driving force behind rapidly-evolving, socially-engineered email threats that grow more dangerous by the day.

Over the past year, business email compromise (BEC) scams have jumped 60 percent. More than 90 percent of organizations report being hit by targeted email attacks, with 23 percent suffering financial damage that can average $1.6 million and up. Ninety six percent of successful data breaches now begin with an email, wreaking an average $7.9 million in costs per incident.

What is driving this uptick? Increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal organizations that pair identity deception techniques with personalized, socially-engineered emails designed to throw recipients off-kilter just long enough to fork over login credentials or make wire transfers before thinking to confirm the message’s legitimacy. Despite increased awareness of the problem, the price tag is estimated at $12.5 billion—and counting.

In this report, we look at trends in phishing and email fraud against business, as well as those targeting their customers through domain spoofing and other tactics. For the first time, we examine the impact of phishing incident response by tracking the burden and cost for a SOC team to respond to user-reported emails. The statistics presented here reflect information captured from the following sources over the fourth quarter—October through December—of 2018:

  • Data extracted from the 300 million+ daily model updates by the Agari Identity Graph
  • DMARC-carrying domains identified within the 330 million+ domains crawled
  • Insights captured from a phishing incident response survey of over 300 cybersecurity professionals
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