25 May 2023 – A new survey of US-based clinics and hospitals has revealed less than one in five institutions have correctly implemented basic phishing and spoofing protection.
The new research by email security provider EasyDMARC reviewed the security policies of 2000 clinics and hospitals based in the US. It found that only 359, or 18% of the researched 2000 facilities, have correctly implemented and configured security policies to flag, report, and remove outbound phishing emails.
The survey reviewed the deployment of the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) standard among US healthcare domains. First published in 2012, the DMARC standard enables the automatic flagging and removal of receiving emails that are impersonating senders’ domains, which is a crucial way to prevent outbound phishing and spoofing attempts.
EasyDMARC’s research found that only 42% of the reviewed US domains had implemented the decade-old DMARC standard; of those institutions, only 359 (18%) had implemented a ‘reject’ policy that automatically rejects emails imitating a legitimate domain. More organizations that deployed DMARC had configured it to do nothing about impersonating emails, with 384 (19%) domains having no policy. 95 (5%) had configured DMARC to send impersonating emails into quarantine. Adoption is similar on the international stage, with DMARC adoption among the top 100 global clinics and hospitals sitting at 54%.
Among the healthcare institutions implementing DMARC in the US, the research also highlights a failure to configure the standard once adopted adequately. For example, among the minority of domains tested that employ DMARC, 628 (31%) had incorrectly configured it. As a result, these organizations lacked visibility into any impersonating emails they received or blocked. This fact makes most US hospitals vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Gerasim Hovhannisyan, EasyDMARC CEO and co-founder says:
“Impersonating email domains is one of the most effective ways cybercriminals bypass organizational cyber defenses through phishing, spoofing, and ransomware attacks. While the healthcare sector in the US performs better than others in its use of DMARC policy, far too many organizations are overlooking a vital tool in effectively preventing this present and persistent danger.
“With stories of ransomware attacks increasingly dominating headlines, the apparent absence of domain authentication renders these organizations susceptible to breaches of highly sensitive, valuable and potentially costly data. Without the adoption of DMARC or similarly effective policies, the sector will continue to see an increase in cyber events and subsequent disruptions and losses.”