Understanding differences between corporate and consumer Gmail threats



We are constantly working to protect our users, and quickly adapt to new online threats. This work never stops: every minute, we prevent over 10 million unsafe or unwanted emails from reaching Gmail users and threatening them with malicious attachments that infect a user’s machine if opened, phishing messages asking for banking or account details, and omnipresent spam. A cornerstone of our defense is understanding the pulse of the email threat landscape. This awareness helps us to anticipate and react faster to emerging attacks.

Today at RSA, we are sharing key insights about the diversity of threats to corporate Gmail inboxes. We’ve highlighted some of our key findings below; you can see our full presentation here. We’ve already incorporated these insights to help keep our G Suite users safe, and we hope that by exposing these nuances, security and abuse professionals everywhere can better understand their risk profile and customize their defenses accordingly.

How threats to corporate and consumer inboxes differ

While spam may be the most common attack across all inboxes, did you know that malware and phishing are far more likely to target corporate users? Here’s a breakdown of how attacks stack up for corporate vs. personal inboxes:
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Different threats to different types of organizations

Attackers appear to choose targets based on multiple dimensions, such as the size and the type of the organization, its country of operation, and the organization’s sector of activity. Let’s look at an example of corporate users across businesses, nonprofits, government-related industries, and education services. If we consider business inboxes as a baseline, we find attackers are far more likely to target nonprofits with malware, while attackers are more likely to target businesses with phishing and spam.

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These nuances go all the way down to the granularity of country and industry type. This shows how security and abuse professionals must tailor defenses based on their personalized threat model, where no single corporate user faces the same attacks.


Constant improvements to corporate Gmail protections

Research like this enables us to better protect our users. We are constantly innovating to better protect our users, and we've already implemented these findings into our G Suite protections. Additionally, we have implemented and rolled out several features that help our users stay safe against these ever-evolving threats.
  • The forefront of our defenses is a state-of-the-art email classifier that detects abusive messages with 99.9% accuracy.
  • To protect yourself from unsafe websites, make sure to heed interstitial warnings that alert you of potential phishing and malware attacks.
  • Use many layers of defense: we recommend using a security key enforcement (2-step verification) to thwart attackers from accessing your account in the event of a stolen password.
  • To ensure your email contents’ stays safe and secure in transit, use our hosted S/MIME feature.
  • Use our TLS encryption indicator, to ensure only the intended recipient can read your email.
We will never stop working to keep our users and their inboxes secure. To learn more about how we protect Gmail, check out this YouTube video that summarizes the lessons we learned while protecting Gmail users through the years.
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