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Cybercriminals are exploiting human nature as phishing attacks rise

According to Verizon's latest Data Breach Investigations Report, cybercriminals are continuing to exploit human nature by utilising familiar attack patterns such as phishing and are relying on ransomware more than ever before.

Over the course of 2015, phishing became an even more popular method of attack with an alarming 30 per cent of phishing messages being opened. This was a 23 per cent increase from Verizon's previous report. Users were also more likely to open malicious attachments or nefarious links with 13 per cent of those who opened emails from cybercriminals clicking on them.

Phishing was once a leading attack patter for cyber-espionage but now it has made its way into seven of the nine incident patters detailed in the 2016 report. Now cybercriminals are opting to use this method of attack because it allows them to target individual users and organisations in a time efficient way that is also extremely effective.

Verizon also noted in its report how a new three-pronged attack is gaining prominence amongst cybercriminals.

First they send out a phishing email that contains either a malicious link or attachment. If the individual or organisation the email is sent to falls victim by clicking on the link or downloading the attachment, then malware is downloaded and installed on to their system.

This allows the attackers to establish a foothold, from which additional malware can be utilised to search for sensitive private information and internal information that can be used to encrypt files for ransom. Key logging software remains the most common way that user credentials to multiple applications and websites are acquired. Finally, cybercriminals use these login details to launch further attacks such as logging into online banking and retail sites.

Verizon offers up a number of ways that users can protect themselves from these attacks. The company recommends utilising two-factor authentication on your systems, using encryption on all of your devices and limiting the number of people who have access to your data.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Benoit Daoust

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.