Bigger isn't better when it comes to social engineering attacks

When it comes to social engineering attacks, larger companies attract more of them, and when they are victimized it costs more per incident, according to a survey sponsored by Check Point.

The result comes from "The Risk of Social Engineering on Information Security", a poll conducted by Dimensional Research, which surveyed 853 IT professionals from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

Of the entire group 322 say they were victims of social engineering attacks and they tracked how often they occurred. The companies with 5,000 or more employees were hit the most, with 48% saying they suffered 25 or more attacks. When size was not taken into consideration, just 32% reported 25 or more attacks.

MORE SECURITY: Cyber-attack: A big one is coming says US Cyber Command General

The cost of attacks were higher for larger companies, too, with 30% of those with 5,000 and more employees suffering $100,000 per incident. Just 19% of the entire survey group suffered losses that large.

A large segment of those polled, 43%, say they know their organizations were targeted by social engineering attacks. An almost equal number, 41%, say they aren't aware of such attacks, but can't say for sure they weren't victims. "This response implies a potential risk that businesses and IT teams are not dealing with," the survey says.

The companies polled also apparently fall down on training. New employees are most likely (60%) to fall for the attacks, yet only 26% of all those surveyed actively train employees in how to avoid social engineering. Written security policies for 40% include directions for avoiding social engineering.

After new employees, the most risky groups are contractors with 44%, executive assistants (38%), human resources (33%) and business leaders (32%). IT professionals were least likely to be victimized, with 77% either low risk or no risk.

Phishing emails (47%) and social networking sites (39%) were cited the most as the common source of social engineering threats.

When analyzed by market segment, the results show that energy and utility companies are hit most commonly (61%) and non-profits hit the least (24%).

Those respondents who were victims of the attacks say they think the top three motivations for the attacks are financial gain, access to proprietary information and competitive advantage.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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