KnowBe4 Finds Phishing Emails Focus on Everyday Tasks


KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, today announced the results of its Q4 2021 top-clicked phishing report.  

“When comparing the results from the U.S. phishing emails to those in the rest of the world, email subjects in the U.S. appear to originate from the users’ organisations and are focused on security alerts related to passwords and internal company policy changes,” said Stu Sjouwerman, CEO, KnowBe4. “However, in the rest of the world, the top subjects are related to users’ everyday tasks and the subject lines appear to be more personalised to entice the user to click. As expected, we did see some phishing email subjects related to the holidays, especially holiday shopping in particular. Employees should remain ever vigilant when it comes to suspicious email messages in their inboxes because just one wrong click can wreak havoc for an organisation.”  

Top 10 Email Categories Globally:  

  1. Business 
  2. Online Services 
  3. Human Resources 
  4. IT 
  5. Banking and Finance 
  6. Coronavirus/COVID-19 Phishing 
  7. Mail Notifications 
  8. Holiday 
  9. Phishing for Sensitive Information 
  10. Social Networking 

Top phishing email subjects were also broken out, comparing those in the U.S. to those in the rest of the world. In Q4 2021, KnowBe4 examined tens of thousands of email subject lines from simulated phishing tests. The organisation also reviewed ‘in-the-wild’ email subject lines that show actual emails users received and reported to their IT departments as suspicious. The results are below. 

Top Phishing Email Subjects: 


  1. Accept Invitation – Staff Meeting via Teams 
  2. Employee Portal – Timecard Not Submitted  
  3. Enclosed attachment for your review 
  4. Immediate password verification required  
  5. [[company_name]] Invoice 

The U.S.  

  1. Password Check Required Immediately 
  2. Important: Dress Code Changes 
  3. Vacation Policy Update 
  4. Important Social Media Policy Change  
  5. Employee Discounts on Amazon for your Holiday Shopping 

*Capitalisation and spelling are as they were in the phishing test subject line.
**Email subject lines are a combination of both simulated phishing templates created by KnowBe4 for clients, and custom tests designed by KnowBe4 customers. 

Common “In-the-Wild” attacks:  

  • IT: Cloud Enrollment
  • Special Project Information
  • You Have Some New Messages
  • Teams Events
  • Microsoft: Private Shared Document Received

*Capitalisation and spelling are as they were in the phishing test subject line.
**In-the-wild email subject lines represent actual emails users received and reported to their IT departments as suspicious. They are not simulated phishing test emails. 

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