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KnowBe4 Phishing Test Results Reveal Half of Top Malicious Email Subjects Are HR Related

KnowBe4 releases Q2 2023 global phishing report and finds HR related email subjects utilized as a phishing strategy and make up 50% of top email subjects

KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, today announced the results of its Q2 2023 top-clicked phishing report. The results include the top email subjects clicked on in phishing tests and reflect the use of HR business-related messages that pique interest from employees and can potentially affect them.

Phishing emails continue to be one of the most common methods to effectively perpetuate malicious attacks on organizations around the globe. Cybercriminals are constantly refining their strategies to stay up-to-date with market trends and outsmart end users and organizations by creating phishing email subjects that are realistic and believable. They prey on emotions and aim to cause distress, confusion, panic or even excitement in order to entice someone to click on a phishing link or malicious attachment. In fact, KnowBe4’s 2023 Phishing by Industry Benchmarking Report revealed that nearly one in three users are likely to click on a suspicious link or comply with a fraudulent request.

Phishing tactics are changing with the increasing trend of cybercriminals using email subjects coming from HR related to dress code changes, training notifications, vacation updates and more. These are effective because they may cause a person to react before thinking logically about the legitimacy of the email and have the potential to impact an employee’s personal life and professional workday.

Holiday phishing email subjects were also utilized this quarter with four out of the five top holiday email subjects appearing to have come from HR. Incentives referring to national holidays such as Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, holiday celebrations and schedule changes were used as bait for unsuspecting end users. Additionally, the report reflects the consistent trend of utilizing IT and online service notifications as well as tax-related email subjects.

“The threat of phishing emails remains as high as ever as cybercriminals continuously tweak their messages to be more sophisticated and seemingly credible,” said Stu Sjouwerman, CEO, KnowBe4. “The trend of phishing emails revealed in the Q2 phishing report is especially concerning, as 50% of these emails appear to come from HR a trusted and crucial department of so many, if not all organizations. These disguised emails take advantage of employee trust and typically incite action that can result in disastrous outcomes for the entire organization. New-school security awareness training for employees is crucial to help combat phishing and malicious emails by educating users on the most common cyber attacks and threats. An educated workforce is an organization’s best defense and is essential to fostering and maintaining a strong security culture.”