Security

Personal vs. corporate email: The security threats differ, says Google

Hackers differ their approach based on who they're attacking. Here's what that means for your unique situation.

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Image: iStock/Jane_Kelly

Crime isn't a one-size-fits-all process: The tools, approaches, plans, and goals all differ greatly depending on the objective. A would-be robber wouldn't use a crowbar to open a bank vault, and cybercriminals operate with the same basic principles of adapting to the job.

That means a good hacker isn't going to approach an attack on a business in the same way they target an individual, which Google's Anti-Abuse Research and Gmail Abuse team pointed out in a recent blog post and a presentation at RSA 2017.

The differences aren't slight, either: Attack styles vary greatly. How does that affect IT teams? It means they need to know the threats unique to their industry, geographic location, and company size.

Hitting them where it hurts: How hackers are targeting businesses

Hacks that target businesses are definitely different from those targeting consumers. While everyone faces phishing, spam, and malware not everyone faces it in the same quantity.

SEE: There's a new Gmail phishing attack going around, and it's fooling everyone (TechRepublic)

Corporate accounts are more than four times as likely to receive malware, and over six times as likely to be targeted by phishing attacks. Spam, on the other hand, is a consumer problem. The differences aren't only business vs. personal, though: Different industries face different attacks as well.

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Image: Google

Malware is the most popular form of attack on non-profits, governments, and educational organizations, and businesses are more likely to be the target of phishing and spam.

Google doesn't give a reason for these attacks, but it does say differences continue to show up right down to the local level. Essentially, it concludes, security professionals need to keep up on the latest threats with a particular attention paid to the kinds of attacks an organization is likely to face.

What Google is doing (and you should be doing) in the meantime

If email security is a concern there are much worse places to be than Gmail. The data Google gathers on attempted hacks is used to constantly improve security, which has enabled Google to accurately intercept 99 percent of "abusive messages." That means the spam, phishing, and malware businesses receive is only a fraction of the total amount being sent.

SEE: Google kills support for Gmail in these Chrome versions: Check if you're affected (TechRepublic)

Security professionals can't rely on Google to do the hard work for them, however. It's still just as essential as ever to train users to spot problems, enact a two-step authentication program, ensure encryption like TLS is in use, and routinely audit security to be sure there are no loose ends.

In the ideal world Google would catch the spam and junk before it ever got to your organization's inboxes, but the real world definitely isn't like that: Google can only respond to known issues, which puts your security team at the tip of the cybersecurity spear.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google's security team released a report on the different kinds of cyberattacks faced by different kinds of industries.
  2. Governments, nonprofits, and educational institutions face more malware, while traditional businesses are usually the target of spam and phishing attacks.
  3. Don't rely on Google to do your security work for you: Put policies in place now so you can respond to future threats before they happen.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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