Attackers playing into users’ commitment to security continue to sail through defenses

KnowBe4 shared its Top 10 Global Phishing Email Subject Lines for Q2 2018. The messages in the report are based on simulated phishing tests users received or real-world emails sent to users who then reported them to their IT departments.

Global Phishing Email Subject Lines for Q2 2018

Ironically, the top three messages for Q2 2018 show that attackers are playing into users’ commitment to security, all tricking users with clever subject lines that deal with passwords or security alerts.

Attackers continue to take advantage of the human psyche. A recent report from Webroot validates this notion with IT decision makers believing their organisations are most vulnerable to phishing attacks – more so than new forms of malware.

Fifty-six per cent of IT decision makers in the U.S. believe their businesses will be most susceptible to phishing attacks, while 44 per cent of IT decision makers in the U.K. are most concerned with ransomware attacks. By playing into a person’s psyche to either feel wanted or alarmed, hackers continue to use email as a successful entry point for an attack.

“Hackers are smart and know how to leverage multiple psychological triggers to get the attention of an innocent victim. In today’s world, it’s imperative that businesses continually educate their employees about the tactics that hackers are using so they can be savvy and not take an email at face-value. Hackers will continue to become more sophisticated with the tactics they use and advance their utilisation of social engineering in order to get what they want,” said Perry Carpenter, chief evangelist and strategy officer at KnowBe4.

KnowBe4 examined tens of thousands of email subject lines from simulated phishing tests to uncover just what makes a user want to click. They also examined ‘in-the-wild’ email subject lines that show actual emails users received and reported to their IT departments as suspicious.

Top 10 most-clicked general email subject lines for Q2 2018

1. Password Check Required Immediately – 15%
2. Security Alert – 12%
3. Change of Password Required Immediately – 11%
4. A Delivery Attempt was made – 10%
5. Urgent press release to all employees – 10%
6. De-activation of [[email]] in Process – 10%
7. Revised Vacation & Sick Time Policy – 9%
8. UPS Label Delivery, 1ZBE312TNY00015011 – 9%
9. Staff Review 2017 – 7%
10. Company Policies-Updates to our Fraternisation Policy – 7%

Capitalisation and spelling are as they were in the phishing test subject line. Email subject lines are a combination of both simulated phishing templates created by KnowBe4 for clients, and custom tests designed by KnowBe4 customers.

Most common in-the-wild email subject lines for Q2 2018

  • Microsoft: Re: Important Email Backup Failed
  • Microsoft/Office 365: Re: Clutter Highlight
  • Wells Fargo: Your Wells Fargo contact information has been updated
  • Chase: Fraudulent Activity On Your Checking Account – Act Now
  • Office 365: Change Your Password Immediately
  • Amazon: We tried to deliver your package today
  • Amazon: Refund – Valid Billing Information Needed
  • IT: Ransomware Scan
  • Docusign: Your Docusign account is suspended
  • You have a secure message.

In-the-wild email subject lines represent actual emails users received and reported to their IT departments as suspicious. They are not simulated phishing test emails.