Half of People Click on Unknown Links—Study

hack mouse cursor phishing malware
Curiosity killed the mouse: a simulated phishing scam found that people click on unknown links out of curiosity. Creative Commons

More than 50 percent of people will click on an unknown link out of curiosity in a trend that could be exposing millions to hackers.

A new study by researchers at Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) in Germany simulated a phishing scam that sent 1,700 messages to participants via email and Facebook. Worryingly, around half of the people clicked on the link despite being unfamiliar with the sender—even participants who claimed to be aware of the danger.

"The overall results surprised us as 78 percent of participants stated in the questionnaire that they were aware of the risks of unknown links," said Zinaida Benenson, who headed the FAU study.

Benenson, whose research focuses on the human factors in cybersecurity, adapted the fake messages so that they were signed with a common name from the target's generation. After the fake messages were sent, Benenson and her team sent a follow-up questionnaire explaining the study to the participants and asking them to fill out a questionnaire that rated their awareness of security.

When asked why they clicked on the link, the majority said that they did so out of curiosity.

"I think that, with careful planning and execution, anyone can be made to click on this type of link, even if it's just out of curiosity," Benenson said.

"I don't think 100 percent security is possible. Nevertheless, further research is required to develop ways of making users, such as employees in companies, more aware of such attacks."

Half of People Click on Unknown Links—Study | Tech & Science