New Study Reveals Lack of Phishing Awareness and Data Security Training

There is a commonly held view among IT staff that employees are the biggest data security risk; however, when it comes to phishing, even IT security staff are not immune. A quarter of IT workers admitted to falling for a phishing scam, compared to one in five office workers (21%), and 34% of business owners and high-execs, according to a recent survey by Intermedia.

For its 2017 Data Vulnerability Report, Intermedia surveyed more than 1,000 full time workers and asked questions about data security and the behaviors that can lead to data breaches, malware and ransomware attacks.

When all it takes is for one employee to fall for a phishing email to compromise a network, it is alarming that 14% of office workers either lacked confidence in their ability to detect phishing attacks or were not aware what phishing is.

Confidence in the ability to detect phishing scams was generally high among office workers, with 86% believing they could identify phishing emails, although knowledge of ransomware was found to be lacking, especially among female workers. 40% of female workers did not know what ransomware was, compared to 28% of male workers. 31% of respondents said they did not know what ransomware was prior to taking part in staff training sessions.

The survey revealed security awareness training was lacking at many businesses. 30% of office workers said they did not receive regular HIPAA training on how to deal with cyber threats. Even though the threat level has risen significantly in the past two years, many businesses have not responded. The 2015 data vulnerability report shows 72% of companies regularly communicated cyber threat information to employees and provided regular training, but in 2017 little has changed. Only 70% of companies provide regular training and threat information to employees. 11% of companies offered no security training whatsoever.

The recently published Global State of Security Survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which was conducted globally on 9,500 executives in 122 countries, suggests the percentage of companies that do not provide security awareness training may well be far higher – 48% of respondents to that survey said they have no employee security awareness training program in place.

Many Employees Pay Ransoms Personally

One of the most interesting insights into ransomware attacks on businesses from the Intermedia study was many employees are so embarrassed and concerned about installing ransomware that they pay the ransom demand out of their own pocket.

Out of the office workers that had experienced a ransomware attack, 59% personally paid the ransom. 37% said the ransom was paid by their employer. The average ransom payment was $1,400. The ransom was typically paid quickly in the hope that data could be restored before anyone else found out about the attack.

While employees were not asked whether they would be made to pay the ransom by their employers, paying the ransom quickly to prevent anyone discovering the attack is unlikely to work. Even when the ransom is paid, businesses still experience considerable downtime. The same study also indicates one in five ransom payments will not see viable decryption keys provided by the attackers.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.