The Human Factor 2021

New Human Factor Report Uncovers Cybersecurity in a Year that Changed the World

Today, we’re releasing our Human Factor 2021 Report, which draws on data and insight from a year’s worth of research into the global threat landscape. As always, our focus is on the techniques and lures employed by attackers as they try to bypass an organization’s most important line of defense: its people.

The latest Human Factor Report from Proofpoint covers threats detected, mitigated and resolved across one of the largest data sets in cybersecurity. In the report, we share how the threat ecosystem has evolved over the past year and explore how a people-centric approach to security can help reduce vulnerability to cyber attacks.

Cybersecurity in a year that changed the world

In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 was felt across almost every aspect of our lives. Amid the upheaval of working from home, educating from home and moving everyday tasks online, cyber attackers found many new opportunities to exploit.

And, as we look back on the first half of 2021, old threats are reemerging with new significance, as ransomware attacks on global infrastructure make cyber defense a geopolitical hot topic.

But whether it’s fake invoices, banking trojans or any other kind of malware, our data shows that most cybersecurity threats focus first on manipulating people rather than technical vulnerabilities. Attackers prey on our fears and capacity for distraction, which have been amplified over the last 18 months.

Key findings in this year’s Human Factor Report include the following:

  • Over 48 million email messages were sent containing malware capable of being used as an entry point for ransomware attacks.
  • Almost every threat actor tracked by Proofpoint used pandemic lures. As the global health crisis evolved, so did threats, with attackers taking advantage of subjects like health updates, stimulus payments and vaccination appointments to target users.
  • Credential phishing remained the most common threat our researchers observed. Even as new threat actors and malware emerged, the end goal of most cyber attacks stayed the same.

Get more insights 

Every day, Proofpoint analyzes billions of email messages, URLs and attachments for our global customer base. The Human Factor Report draws on analysis of that data by our team of expert threat researchers. 

To read more of their insights, download the full report now.

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