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Volume 30, Issue 2

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The Business Continuity Institute

Cyber attackers are relying more than ever on exploiting people instead of software flaws to install malware, steal credentials/confidential information, and transfer funds. A study by Proofpoint found that more than 90% of malicious email messages featuring nefarious URLs led users to credential phishing pages, and almost all (99%) email-based financial fraud attacks relied on human clicks rather than automated exploits to install malware.

The Human Factor Report found that business email compromise (BEC) attack message volume rose from 1% in 2015 to 42% by the end of 2016 relative to emails bearing banking Trojans. BEC attacks, which have cost organizations more than $5 billion worldwide, use malware-free messages to trick recipients into sending confidential information or funds to cyber criminals. BEC is the fastest growing category of email-based attacks.

“Accelerating a shift that began in 2015, cyber criminals are aggressively using attacks that depend on clicks by humans rather than vulnerable software exploits - tricking victims into carrying out the attack themselves,” said Kevin Epstein, vice president of Proofpoint’s Threat Operations Center. “It’s critical that organizations deploy advanced protection that stops attackers before they have a chance to reach potential victims. The earlier in the attack chain you can detect malicious content, the easier it is to block, contain, and resolve.”

Someone will always click, and fast. Nearly 90% of clicks on malicious URLs occur within the first 24 hours of delivery with 25% of those occurring in just ten minutes, and nearly 50% of clicks occur within an hour. The median time-to-click (the time between arrival and click) is shortest during business hours from 8am to 3pm EDT in the US and Canada, a pattern that generally holds for the UK and Europe as well.

Watch your inbox closely on Thursdays. Malicious email attachment message volume spikes more than 38% on Thursdays over the average weekday volume. Ransomware attackers in particular favor sending malicious messages Tuesday through Thursday. On the other hand, Wednesday is the peak day for banking Trojans. Point-of-sale (POS) campaigns are sent almost exclusively on Thursday and Friday, while keyloggers and backdoors favour Mondays.

Attackers understand email habits and send most email messages in the 4-5 hours after the start of the business day, peaking around lunchtime. Users in the US, Canada, and Australia tend to do most of their clicking during this time period, while French clicking peaks around 1pm. Swiss and German users don’t wait for lunch to click, their clicks peak in the first hours of the working day. UK workers pace their clicking evenly over the course of the day, with a clear drop in activity after 2pm.

The Business Continuity Institute

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has claimed that climate change is greatly increasing the likelihood of devastating wildfires, such as the one that burned its way across Portugal last weekend but is now reported to be under control.

More than 60 fires broke out in a densely forested area near the small town of Pedrógão Grande, 200km north-east of Lisbon, killing more than 60 people, in what Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa described as the country’s “greatest human tragedy in living memory."

Dr Robert Glasser, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, urged countries to integrate climate change risk in their fire prevention and response planning, commenting that "the fire highlights the urgency of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as possible."

Organizations in regions where wildfires are a possibility need to consider how they would respond to such an incident, or any incident that could result in the loss of facilities, danger to staff, or the evacuation of people from the region. Actions that need to be thought through are how to communicate with staff, or other stakeholders, during the event, primarily to ensure their safety, but also to liaise with them about alternative work arrangements . If facilities have been damaged then they will need to consider where staff can work both in the short-term and the long-term, bearing in mind that staff may not want to work in the short-term as the organization is unlikely to be their top priority.

Adverse weather, which can lead to the conditions that cause and spread wildfires, such as no rainfall, high temperatures and strong winds, featured fifth in the list of concerns that business continuity professionals have, as identified in the Business Continuity Institute's latest Horizon Scan Report. Climate change is not yet considered an issue however, as only 23% of respondents to a global survey considered it necessary to evaluate climate change for its business continuity implications. given this latest statement from UNISDR, perhaps now is the time to start giving it greater consideration.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change found that 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more.