UK a global target in phishing attacks, new study reveals

A recent study published by Proofpoint has revealed that unsolicited email destined for recipients based in the UK is over four times more likely to contain a malicious URL than in the United States, Germany or France. The study, which analysed more than one million URLs over the course of three weeks, found that on average, UK-based email recipients are twice as likely to receive malicious URLs than those in the US, and a whopping five times more likely to receive unsolicited emails containing malicious URLs than their counterparts in Germany and France.

However, the research also uncovered a contrary pattern when analysing the amount of unsolicited email as a percentage of total mail flow for each country. Though receiving far less malicious URLs in total, Germany receives more spam as a percentage of all email than the US, the UK and France. Thus, the study concludes that the prevalence of spam and of malicious URLs in total email do not have a correlation.

The deeper resonance of this study is a sobering one for email security in the UK, where a smaller amount of unsolicited email is five times more likely to contain malicious URLs.

In a blog post, Kevin Epstein, VP of advanced security & governance at Proofpoint, reflected on the findings: "Relative to other countries in this report, this is a startlingly high number of targeted attacks against the UK. Given the financial motivations of the attacks, this strongly suggests cybercriminals have found UK organisations to be an unusually lucrative target. "

“This data shows that there are still regional differences in the shape and character of the threat” representatives from Proofpoint commented in an email to SCmagazineUK.com. “Global organisations in particular will need to understand these and other variations in order to protect their users in across the boundaries of language, country and culture.”