Cognitive Triaging of Phishing Attacks


Amber van der Heijden and Luca Allodi, Eindhoven University of Technology


In this paper we employ quantitative measurements of cognitive vulnerability triggers in phishing emails to predict the degree of success of an attack. To achieve this we rely on the cognitive psychology literature and develop an automated and fully quantitative method based on machine learning and econometrics to construct a triaging mechanism built around the cognitive features of a phishing email; we showcase our approach relying on data from the anti-phishing division of a large financial organization in Europe. Our evaluation shows empirically that an effective triaging mechanism for phishing success can be put in place by response teams to effectively prioritize remediation efforts (e.g. domain takedowns), by first acting on those attacks that are more likely to collect high response rates from potential victims.

USENIX Security '19 Open Access Videos Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {236332,
author = {Amber van der Heijden and Luca Allodi},
title = {Cognitive Triaging of Phishing Attacks},
booktitle = {28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-06-9},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {1309--1326},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,

Presentation Video