Technology giving companies a false sense of security, says F-Secure

News by Roi Perez

Overconfidence in technology is leaving companies exposed to phishing and other attacks that prey on humans, as evidenced by red team tests where 52 percent of employees clicked on a link in a fake email.

Attackers consistently prey on companies that have what cyber-security experts call a "false sense of security" when it comes to relying too much on technology to defend their networks.

The warning comes from a spokesperson for F-Secure's red team – a group of cyber-security experts specialising in ethically attacking organisations to highlight strengths and weaknesses in their security.

"Using technology to solve human problems just doesn't work, and anyone telling you different is selling magic beans," said Tom Van de Wiele, principal security consultant at F-Secure. "Real-life attackers, especially criminals, live off perfecting subtle social engineering tricks that trick human beings into letting their guard down. And letting employees believe that cutting-edge security technologies will handle everything gives a false sense of security, which is something today's attackers are counting on."

Phishing exemplifies what Van de Wiele says are failings related to overconfidence in technology.

According to PwC's Global State of Information Security Survey 2017, phishing was the #1 vector for cyber-attacks targeting financial institutions in 2016. And based on the spread of managed phishing-as-a-service bundles on the darknet, these attacks are likely to become more prevalent going forward.

"You'd be amazed by what people click on while they're working. They're not stupid, just caught off-guard, not necessarily expecting to be duped," said Van de Wiele. And indeed, simulated phishing attacks have high success rates in F-Secure's Red Teaming Tests.

For example, in a recent job, F-Secure red team experts sent out a fake LinkedIn email to see how many of the client organisation's employees would click on a link in an unsolicited email.

Fifty-two percent of employees clicked. In another test, F-Secure's red team created an email leading to a fake portal where employees would need to log in using their domain credentials. Twenty-six percent of recipients followed the email link to the portal, and 13 percent actually entered their login credentials.

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