- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More than 90 percent of significant data breaches in the last few years started when someone opened a malicious link or attachment sent via email, intelligence officials stressed Wednesday as they rolled out a new campaign meant to increase awareness of attempts targeting government workers.

The new campaign, announced in the wake of the massive Office of Personnel Management hack that compromised personal information of more than 22 million federal workers, highlights the dangers that “spear phishing” cyberattacks can pose.

Such attacks can pose huge security risks, and intelligence agencies already are testing employees’ awareness by sending fake “spear phishing” emails as a means to gauge security, said William Evanina, the head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“It means that our adversaries do not need to use sophisticated techniques to compromise our data, our systems and our people,” said Mr. Evanina at the roll out of the campaign, announced at Intelligence and National Security Summit held in Washington, D.C. “It’s an email.”

Spear phishing attacks are targeted and designed to make emails appear like they are coming from a person that the recipient knows. Once the recipient opens a link, spyware can be loaded onto the person’s computer or network.

The new awareness campaign will feature videos and outreach literature for government employees and contractors meant to highlight the ways in which hackers may attempt to infiltrate their computer systems.

One of the campaign videos shown at the announcement pointed out that emails with a link but no further information from a colleague might raise suspicion, as might email messages containing poor syntax or grammar.

“If just a few people don’t click the link, it may save a massive breach in the future,” Mr. Evanina said.

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