Study: Roughly Half of You Will Click This Link

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

Congratulations, you are among the select few that were enticed to click this link! Okay, I will cut you some slack as you already trust this site, at least I hope you do, but a new study has come out of Germany that found about half of the participants clicked on spam links in emails and on Facebook.

Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) wanted to know just how easy it is to get individuals to fall for phishing attacks by sending disguised emails and Facebook messages to 1,700 test subjects from the university.

Dr. Zinaida Benenson from FAU’s Chair of Computer Science 1 led the experiment with two studies. Both involved sending out emails or Facebook messages claiming that the link included in the message would lead to photos from last weekend’s party.

78 percent said they were aware of the risks of unknown links

For the first round, participants were addressed by name. The second test left out the receivers name, but included a more detailed message, including specifics about the photos taking place from last weekend’s New Years party.

So what were the results?

When addressed by name, 56 percent clicked on the email link and 38 percent clicked the link in the Facebook message. The second test saw the percentage of email clicks drop to only 20 percent, but Facebook clicks actually rose to 42 percent.

Dr. Benenson admits that the high numbers of participants clicking the links was a concerning surprise. After sending out the disguised messages, participants were given a questionnaire asking to rate their perceived awareness of phishing schemes, of which 78 percent said they were aware of the risks of unknown links.

“Only 20 percent from the first study and 16 percent from the second study said that they had clicked on the link,” Dr. Benenson said in response to the answers given on the questionnaire. “However, when we evaluated the real clicks, we found that 45 and 25 percent respectively had clicked on the links.”

The takeaway? Curiosity can easily get to the best of us.


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Sources: Friedrich-Alexander University

Photo: Hedgehog Fibres [Flickr]

Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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