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Why Phishing Works

Email Problem

No matter how much money an organization throws at security, one door always remains open, Email. Here, we examine the question, Why phishing works?

The reasoning is simple. Email is an open communications protocol. The original intention was for people to easily communicate to each other by electronic means which they easily can.

Of course the down side to having such an open communication channel is the potential for abuse. And there has been plenty of it.

In order to curb the influx of junk email, spam, phishing and malware laden messages the business world has turned to email security services. Yet, even though they stop lots of emails, still there are considerable numbers of new scams coming through every day, Why?

Spoofed email

A spoofed email is an email that misrepresents itself to appear as a legitimate entity. This can easily be made possible by the fact that there are two “From” addresses in an email. One you see when you open your email to read it, and one you don’t. Unfortunately the one you don’t see is the one its actually from.

This is the tool that most fraudsters use when they are utilizing email for fraud or crime. They enter a fake ‘from’ address in the part you see. So why can’t we just block all spoofed email?

Legitimate Spoofed Email

This is where it gets tricky. There are at least two types of email you receive every day which involve spoofed email addresses that you actually want to receive.

1: Transactional Email – this is the main type of email a business really wants to receive that uses a from address pretending to be someone its not. This is email sent on behalf of someone else. An example would be your login and passwords to certain online services as well as your welcome emails to those services. These emails are not sent from the service providers themselves but from a transactional email company on their behalf – hence it is spoofed. It is also email you need to receive. Now are you beginning to see the conflict?

2: Newsletters: marketing emails and newsletters and product updates etc are also often sent on behalf of the company mentioned in the “From” address you see by a company mentioned in the “From” address you don’t see.

Why Phishing Works

So its easy to see why all spoofed email cannot be blocked, but also easy to see how this leaves a security gap open. In reality this is what a lot of scammers take advantage of. This leads to constant new Phishing attempts which are only blocked after they are discovered.

Where does this leave you?

Every company receives Phishing emails regardless of their email security service. They may receive less if it is a good service but they will still receive some phishing emails. Its time to stop looking for a technological magic bullet and train your staff to identify genuine email from fraudulent email. So now you know why phishing works what are you going to do about it?

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