Researchers at Google and Stanford analyzed a 1.2 billion malicious emails to find out what makes Gmail users get tricked by scammers.
The verdict? Seniors were at the highest risk of becoming the victim of a malicious email attack.
This research comes at a time when users are getting crushed by record numbers of malware-stuffed emails. COVID-19 and the pandemic’s push to a remote workforce have supercharged email attackers’ efforts over the past year. In fact, according to Proofpoint’s 2020 State of the Phish Report, the pandemic has driven a 14 percent increase in phishing attacks in the U.S. alone over 2019.
Researchers found that the odds of someone between the ages of 55 to 64 experiencing an attack is, on average, 1.64 times that of 18 to 24-year-olds. There are two possible explanations for this. First is that attackers simply see older users as easier to dupe and coerce. The second is that older people tend to have larger online footprints, thus making the discovery of their accounts easier.
Unfortunately, the Google and Stanford researchers also discovered that two-factor authentication (2FA) only had a nominal effect on mitigating risk. It’s still basic security awareness and human behavior that offers the best protection. Most attacks require human interaction to be successful — and they are overwhelmingly aimed at specific people and with Gmail, the scammers are targeting older people.
What can you do? A lot, and with Google it’s all free.
Google suggests that users boost their security by completing a security checkup and enabling safe-browsing protections in Google Chrome.
- Here’s a link to completing a security checkup: https://myaccount.google.com/security-checkup
- And here’s a link that walks you through enabling safe-browsing protections in Chrome for your computer, Android and iPhone/iPad device: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/9890866
Google also offers an Advanced Protection program for users who have a high risk of being targeted. People whose accounts contain particularly valuable files or sensitive information should consider Advanced Protection. Google strongly recommends that journalists, activists, business executives, and people involved in elections enroll. If you’re at high risk for targeted online attacks, they recommend enrolling both your work and personal accounts, and possibly even your family members’ accounts.
Ready to get that going? Yes, it’s also free. Here’s the link: https://landing.google.com/advancedprotection/
It’s important to remember that it’s up to you to protect you and your family members from cybercrime. We’re here to help.
Stay safe out there.