Phishing top attack technique

05 December 2023

Hornetsecurity’s Cyber Security Report 2024 highlights the growing threat of cybercriminals using harmful web links in emails.

An analysis of 45 billion emails found a 144% increase in this type of attack compared to last year, rising from 12.5% of all threats in 2022 to 30.5% this year. It is phishing, however, that remains the most common email attack technique. Its use increased by nearly 4 percentage points this year, rising from 39.6% to 43.3% of all email attacks.

Of the 45 billion emails analysed, 36.4% were categorised as unwanted. Within this category, just over 3.6% - or more than 585 million - were identified as malicious. This represents the widespread nature of the risk, with a vast number of emails posing potential threats.

Threat actors are savvy and adaptable. In the last year, following Microsoft disabling macros by default in Office, there was a significant decline in the use of DOCX files (by 9.5 percentage points) and XLSX files (by 6.7 percentage points). Instead, cyber-criminals opted for HTML files (37.1% of files analysed), PDFs (23.3%) and Archive files (20.8%). HTML file usage is a particularly notable trend: usage rose by 76.6% over the last year.

Brand impersonation continues to target victims, soliciting sensitive information via phishing. Shipping and e-commerce emails are to be regarded with particular caution: DHL accounts for 26.1% of all impersonations, Amazon 7.7% and Fedex 2.3%. All three were in the top 10 most spoofed. Other popular brands, including LinkedIn, Microsoft (both 2.4%), and Netflix (2.2%), also featured in the top 10.