Emails are a major conduit for cyber-attackers to access their prey: They can send phishing mails, and can attempt to infect computers via malicious links and downloads. They can also use mail to perpetrate good old-fashioned con-game fraud. Email is, simply put, fraught with danger. It’s the Serengeti of cyber-space, where average consumers are the springboks and the hackers are the lions.
So it’s a bit disturbing that a survey from Mailjet has revealed that seven in 10 Brits don’t see emails as a threat to cybersecurity—in fact a significant percentage will cavalierly open, well, just about anything.
Mailjet researchers somehow resisted incorporating the phrase, “Are you kidding me?” Instead, they merely noted that this suggests that “Brits are still misunderstanding the fundamentals of computer safety.”
But malicious mails…they’re often so obvious, right? Broken English, unsolicited offers from Nigerian princes to share their wealth, porn-y subject lines and dubious “urgent bank messages”—these should be easy to identify and avoid, right?
Nope. Consider: 20% of people in the UK said they have no issue opening an email with a swear word in the subject line. Now, some may say this speaks to a cultural love of colorful expression, but that's still, in a word, boll*cks.
Almost 2 in 10 (19%) admitted to knowingly opening an email that said it contains images of a beautiful woman or man. Another 10% have admitted to opening an email that explicitly mentions containing nudity. Well, that one speaks for itself. Back to work, lads—and ladies.
Unfortunately, the research also found that over two-thirds (69%) of respondents did not know that simply opening an email could expose a computer to cyber-attack. Add that to the fact that almost half (49%) admitted to opening an email at work that was personal or non-work related, and you have a concerning trend for employers.
Interestingly, celebrity culture endures as a top lure. The Kardashians may be on their way out Stateside but they’re still going strong in the UK: More than 5% admitted to opening emails at work with the subject line, “Kim Kardashian as you’ve never seen her before!” Kate Middleton held her own though: 4% said they would download emailed photos of the British future Queen.
This intel dovetails with previous studies on the power of celebrity: For instance, it has been found in the past that La Liga stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are among the most common pop culture icons used in email attacks.
“It may sound simple, but the general lack of education surrounding emails is one of the biggest threats to cybersecurity,” noted Amir Jirbandey, inbound marketing lead at Mailjet. “The fact that almost 70% of us do not see emails as a threat to computer security is staggering, and what this research has emphasized is the need for both consumers and businesses to sit up and understand the need to prioritize basic email safety.”
Perhaps employers should start with a no-celeb, no-nudity, no-“beautiful man” type of policy. And definitely no Kardashians or soccer stars.
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