Major Middle East companies leaving customers at risk of email fraud


Proofpoint, in collaboration with its strategic partner Help AG, the cybersecurity arm of Etisalat Digital released research identifying that almost a third (31%) of the Forbes Top 100 Middle East Companies do not have a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) record in place, leaving their customers at risk of email fraud. The lack of a DMARC record makes companies potentially more susceptible to cybercriminals spoofing their identity and increases the risk of email fraud targeting their customers.

More worryingly, only a quarter (24%) of the Top 100 Middle East Companies have ‘reject’ in place, which means a large majority (76%) are not proactively blocking fraudulent emails from reaching customers. Reject is the strictest and recommended level of DMARC protection, a setting and policy that actively blocks fraudulent emails from reaching their intended target. 

Email is, and will continue to be, the initial attack vector of choice for cybercriminals. In fact, recent Proofpoint research on CISOs and CSOs in the UAE illustrated that 15% of organizations suffered a phishing attack in 2019, with an additional 15% suffering a Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack.

For many organisations, the road to easing email fraud risk is paved with DMARC, an email protocol being adopted globally as the passport control of the email security world. It verifies that the purported domain of the sender has not been impersonated. DMARC verificaiton relies on the established DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) standards to ensure the email is not spoofing the domain. DMARC is designed to protect employees, customers, and partners from cybercriminals looking to impersonate a trusted domain.

DMARC Adoption Across Top 100 Middle East Companies

To gauge how quickly the DMARC standard is being adopted across the Middle East, Proofpoint, in collaboration with Help AG, conducted an analysis of the primary corporate domains of all of the Forbes Top 100 Middle East Companies:

Key findings include:

  • Only 24 percent of the Top 100 Middle East organisations have implemented ‘reject’, the strictest and recommended level of DMARC protection, leaving 76 percent at risk of subjecting customers to email fraud.
  • In total, 69 percent of the Top 100 Middle East companies have published DMARC records to begin protecting their employees, customers and partners from some forms of email fraud. This means, 31 percent have no policy in place to protect them from domain spoofing.
  • Some industries lead the charge for the rate of DMARC adoption – 100 percent of logistics companies and 80 percent of banking and financial services providers have published a DMARC record. However, some other industries clearly lag behind – only 50 percent of real estate and construction firms and only 20 percent of companies from the retail sector have started their DMARC journey.

“Email fraud continues to provide great returns for cybercriminals and our latest research confirms that it‘s not going away,” said Emile Abou Saleh, regional director of Middle East and Africa for Proofpoint. “As these threats grow in scope and sophistication, it is critical that organisations shore up their defences against email fraud by adopting technology like DMARC to protect their brand against impersonation. Additionally, as cybercriminals take advantage of the human factor to execute their campaigns, companies need to ensure they deploy effective security awareness training to educate employees about best practices as well as establish a people-centric strategy to defend against threat actors’ unwavering focus on compromising end users.”

“It’s vital that we raise awareness of the dangerous risk of email threats that the top businesses in the region face. Email-borne cyberattacks are undoubtedly on the rise and organizations can take simple, recommended steps to protect their customers from the risk of email fraud by implementing a DMARC policy,” said Stephan Berner, CEO at Help AG. “At Help AG, we have started our DMARC journey and strive to enable more and more businesses in the region to do so too – and fast.”

Help AG and Proofpoint have an ongoing partnership which offers leading cybersecurity awareness solutions to companies in the Middle East. This partnership now extends to wider offerings, such as Proofpoint’s Email Security Solutions

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