Phish Phodder: Is User Education Helping or Hindering?

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David Harley & Andrew Lee, “Phish Phodder: Is User Education Helping or Hindering?” (davidharleyandrewleevb2007), September 2007, Virus Bulletin. Copyright is held by Virus Bulletin Ltd, but the document is made available on this site for personal use free of charge by permission of Virus Bulletin.

ABSTRACT
Mostly, security professionals can spot a phish a mile off. If they do err, it’s usually on the side of caution, for instance when real organizations fail to observe best practice and generate phish-like marketing messages. Many sites are now addressing the problem with phishing quizzes, intended to teach the everyday user to distinguish phish from phowl (sorry). Academic papers on why people fall for phishing mails and sites are something of a growth industry. Yet phishing attacks continue to increase, and while accurate and up-to-date figures for financial loss are hard to come by, indications are that losses from phishing and other forms of identity theft continue to climb.

This paper:
1. Evaluates current research on how end users are susceptible to phishing attacks and ID theft.
2. Evaluates a range of web-based educational and informational resources in general and summarizes the pros and cons of the quiz approach in particular.
3. Reviews the shared responsibility of phished institutions and phishing mail targets for reducing the impact of phishing scams. What constitutes best practice for finance-related mail-outs and e-commerce transactions? How far can we rely on detection technology?

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