We examined the influence of three social engineering strategies on users’ judgments of how safe it is to click on a link in an email. The three strategies examined were authority, scarcity and social proof, and the emails were either genuine, phishing or spear-phishing. Of the three strategies, the use of authority was the most effective strategy in convincing users that a link in an email was safe. When detecting phishing and spear-phishing emails, users performed the worst when the emails used the authority principle and performed best when social proof was present. Overall, users struggled to distinguish between genuine and spear-phishing emails. Finally, users who were less impulsive in making decisions generally were less likely to judge a link as safe in the fraudulent emails. Implications for education and training are discussed.
Butavicius, Marcus; Parsons, Kathryn; Pattinson, Malcolm; and McCormac, Agata, "Breaching the Human Firewall: Social engineering in Phishing and Spear-Phishing Emails" (2015). ACIS 2015 Proceedings. 98.