VB2019 paper: 2,000 reactions to a malware attack – accidental study
In this paper I present an analysis of 1,976 unsolicited answers received from the targets of a malicious email campaign, who were mostly unaware that they were not contacting the real sender of the malicious messages. I received the messages because the spammers, whom I had described previously on my blog, decided to take revenge by putting my email address in the ‘reply-to’ field of a malicious email campaign. Many of the victims were unaware that the message they had received was fake and contained malware. Some even asked me to resend the malware as it had been blocked by their anti-virus product. I have read those 1,976 messages, analysed and classified victims’ answers, and present them here. The key takeaway is that we need to train users, but at the same time we should not count on them to react properly to Internet threats. Despite dealing with cybercrime victims daily for the last seven years I was surprised by most of the reactions and realized how little we, as the security industry, know about the average Internet user’s ability (or rather inability) to identify threats online. We need to build solutions that will protect users, without their knowledge, sometimes against their will, from their ability to harm themselves.
The fifth group is actually the most worrying. I call this group ‘MY ANTI-VIRUS WORKED, PLEASE SEND AGAIN’, as these are recipients who mention that their security product (mostly anti-virus) warned them against an infected file, but they wanted the file to be resent because they could not open it. The group consisted of 44 individuals (2.35%).