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Major Middle East companies leaving customers at risk of email fraud

Major Middle East companies leaving customers at risk of email fraud

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Proofpoint, a next-generation cybersecurity and compliance company and strategic partner Help AG, the cybersecurity arm of Etisalat Digital, have released research identifying that almost a third (31%) of the Forbes Top 100 Middle East Companies do not have a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) record in place, leaving their customers at risk of email fraud.

According to the report, the lack of a DMARC record makes companies potentially more susceptible to cybercriminals spoofing their identity and increases the risk of email fraud targeting their customers.

More worryingly, only a quarter (24%) of the Top 100 Middle East Companies have ‘reject’ in place, which means a large majority (76%) are not proactively blocking fraudulent emails from reaching customers. Reject is the strictest and recommended level of DMARC protection, a setting and policy that actively blocks fraudulent emails from reaching their intended target.

Email is and continues to be, the initial attack vector of choice for cybercriminals. In fact, recent Proofpoint research on CISOs and CSOs in the UAE illustrated that 15% of organisations suffered a phishing attack in 2019, with an additional 15% suffering a Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack.

For many organisations, the road to easing email fraud risk is paved with DMARC, an email protocol being adopted globally as the passport control of the email security world.

Key report findings include:

  • Only 24% of the Top 100 Middle East organisations have implemented ‘reject’, the strictest and recommended level of DMARC protection, leaving 76% at risk of subjecting customers to email fraud
  • In total, 69% of the Top 100 Middle East companies have published DMARC records to begin protecting their employees, customers and partners from some forms of email fraud. This means, 31% have no policy in place to protect them from domain spoofing
  • Some industries lead the charge for the rate of DMARC adoption – 100% of logistics companies and 80% of banking and financial services providers have published a DMARC record. However, some other industries clearly lag behind – only 50% of real estate and construction firms and only 20% of companies from the retail sector have started their DMARC journey

“Email fraud continues to provide great returns for cybercriminals and our latest research confirms that it‘s not going away,” said Emile Abou Saleh, Regional Director, Middle East and Africa, Proofpoint. “As these threats grow in scope and sophistication, it is critical that organisations shore up their defences against email fraud by adopting technology like DMARC to protect their brand against impersonation. Additionally, as cybercriminals take advantage of the human factor to execute their campaigns, companies need to ensure they deploy effective security awareness training to educate employees about best practices as well as establish a people-centric strategy to defend against threat actors’ unwavering focus on compromising end users.”

Stephan Berner, CEO, Help AG, said: “As a cybersecurity services provider in the Middle East, it’s vital that we raise awareness of the dangerous risk of email threats that the top businesses in the region face. Email-borne cyberattacks are undoubtedly on the rise and organisations can take simple, recommended steps to protect their customers from the risk of email fraud by implementing a DMARC policy. At Help AG, we have started our DMARC journey and strive to enable more and more businesses in the region to do so too – and fast.”

Help AG and Proofpoint have an ongoing partnership which offers cybersecurity awareness solutions to companies in the Middle East.

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