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KnowBe4’s Annual Phishing Benchmarking Report Shows Focusing on the Human Element Still the Best Safeguard Against Cyber Threats

KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, today released its new 2024 Phishing by Industry Benchmarking Report to measure an organization’s Phish-prone™ Percentage (PPP), which indicates how many of their employees are likely to fall for phishing or social engineering scams.

This year’s report shows that according to baseline testing conducted across all industries, without security awareness training, 34.3% of employees are likely to click on malicious links or comply with fraudulent requests. This is an increase of over one percent in comparison to the 2023 report and highlights the importance of building a strong security culture within organizations to mitigate the human risk that exists when safeguarding against cyber threats.

KnowBe4 analyzed over 54 million simulated phishing tests across more than 11.9 million users from 55,675 organizations in 19 different industries. The resulting baseline PPP measures the percentage of employees in organizations that had not conducted any KnowBe4 security training, who clicked a simulated phishing email link or opened an infected attachment during testing.

The report highlights a key fact: when simulated phishing security testing is integrated with security awareness training, it works. Organizations that commit to regular security awareness training and testing after the initial baseline test saw an average PPP drop to just 18.9% within 90 days. After 12 months of continuous training and testing, the PPP plummeted even further to 4.6%. These results show that to transform cybersecurity culture, existing habits first need to be broken to make way for more secure ones. As employees start to embrace new behaviors, they become habits, over time evolving into standard practices that shape organizational culture and, in turn, creating a workforce that instinctively makes security a priority in their day-to-day work.

Industries particularly vulnerable to cyber threats, scoring the highest PPP, and in dire need of security awareness training are also discussed in the report. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industry remains in the high-risk category with the highest PPP across small- and large-sized organizations scoring 34.7% and 51.4%, respectively. Across medium-sized organizations, the hospitality industry took top billing for the second time in three years with a score of 39.7%.

This report reinforces the crucial role the human element plays in cybersecurity. Although technology is important for preventing and recovering from cyberattacks, human error is still a big contributing factor to data breaches. In fact, according to Verizon's 2024 Data Breach Investigations report, 68% of data breaches were due to accidental actions, the use of stolen credentials, social engineering and malicious privilege misuse. Even though this is an improvement from last year’s 74%, organizations must continue to focus on strengthening the human firewall to safeguard against cyber threats.

An emerging threat vector highlighted in this year’s report is the rapid adoption of AI in certain industries which presents additional risks if not implemented with strong cybersecurity measures.

"The data does not lie; regular and focused security training reshapes how employees interact with potential threats. Our goals are to educate and change behaviors, for employees to instinctively put security first," says Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4. "Furthermore, we are seeing more sophisticated cyber threats emerge because of AI and the need for training is imperative.”

This year’s report also examines international phishing benchmarks from North America, South America, Europe, United Kingdom & Ireland, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

To download a copy of the 2024 KnowBe4 Phishing by Industry Benchmarking Report, click here.

About KnowBe4

KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, is used by more than 65,000 organizations around the globe. Founded by IT and data security specialist Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 helps organizations address the human element of security by raising awareness about ransomware, CEO fraud and other social engineering tactics through a new-school approach to awareness training on security. The late Kevin Mitnick, who was an internationally recognized cybersecurity specialist and KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer, helped design the KnowBe4 training based on his well-documented social engineering tactics. Organizations rely on KnowBe4 to mobilize their end users as their last line of defense and trust the KnowBe4 platform to strengthen their security culture and reduce human risk.

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