BEC attacks, also known as CEO Fraud: the new threat that could destroy your business

We would like to dedicate our new post to BEC attacks (Business Email Compromise), also known as “CEO Fraud” which is becoming the latest nightmare for businesses. They are difficult to detect and could cause very serious damage and losses.
We regularly read about incidents in the press where groups carry out these types of attacks. This shows us the speed at which these threats are growing. When the general media starts to report on these types of attacks, it typically means that the losses suffered by organizations are very significant.
Despite continuous efforts by companies and authorities to raise awareness, these kinds of attacks are very difficult to detect and they have become a very real problem which organizations need to put a stop to ASAP.

But what exactly is a BEC attack or CEO fraud? Let’s start by answering this question

rawpixel-1067091-unsplashshutterstock_298402019-260x144The main purpose of this type of attack, which is evolving at lightning speed, is to impersonate a company’s CEO or founder. Cyber criminals try to gain access to the company’s intranet using malware and spear fishing. Once this has been achieved, the process begins.
Everything starts with a thorough analysis of the company’s business activities: invoicing, suppliers, customers, checking the CEO’s emails to find out how he expresses himself, etc. The process may differ depending on each case, and can last from a few days up to several weeks. After the period of ‘meticulous’ analysis, the criminals wait for the precise moment to carry out their attack. This usually coincides with the CEO’s travel plans or a similar situation where he would have limited access to email and other communications. This is when an email gets sent to one of the CEO’s team members requesting the transfer of a significant amount which then, obviously, gets transferred to a different account. The recipient of the email doesn’t suspect any wrongdoing because of the research carried out by the attackers and the email looks completely credible.
Almost half of attacks carried out are directed at people in senior positions, but there is also a smaller amount which is not directed at the executive leadership, and this shows just how necessary it is to protect every employee’s emails in order to avoid an attack which could cause serious damage to the company.

The typology of BEC attacks

A few months ago, there was only one type of BEC attack: those directed at CEOs. This tendency has changed over the last few months and we are now seeing a new tactic. Although it cannot exactly be called “CEO fraud”, the same techniques are being used. In these cases, the main objective is to rob employees of their salaries. Once access has been gained to an employee’s email account, the attacker can then send an email to human resources asking them to update their bank account details to a different account number.
These types of emails, which are aimed at tricking the recipient into making a bank transfer or sending confidential information over email, are designed in an extremely meticulous way which makes it particularly difficult for current email security systems to detect them.

The latest figures released by the FBI show that these kinds of attacks resulted in the loss of 12 billion dollars between October 2012 and May 2018. This is an alarming figure and it has caused many companies to recognize the importance of increasing their email security.

The BEC boom in 2018: an extremely profitable scam

BEC attacks have grown by 476% in the last year. This is alarming if one bears in mind that the attacks break into email accounts with access to bank details and sensitive and confidential data which can case huge economic losses to companies.

These are not careless emails written by robots. To make sure the employee falls for the scam and doesn’t notice anything suspicious, very detailed emails are created which include company data.

How to combat BEC attacks

We have already mentioned how these types of incidents can be directed at practically anybody within the company. This is why it is important to scan all incoming business emails in order to identify and block any attempt at impersonation. Spamina ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) performs this process automatically and protects companies from these types of incidents; avoiding economic losses as well as the loss of confidential information which can cause serious damage to the company’s structure, including loss of reputation and even bankruptcy.

How can I protect my business from a BEC attack?

  • Creating awareness among all employees of the company plays a key role. The last few months have shown us that these incidents, even though they are mainly directed at the CEO, can also be directed at other employees. Therefore, creating awareness among all employees can prevent the company from being hacked.
  • Implement tools that are specifically designed to detect these kinds of attacks; like Spamina’s Advanced Threat Protection solution.
  • Have clearly defined internal procedures for the transfer or sharing of sensitive information and make sure all employees are trained on them. Perform double checks, for example, via email and telephone to verify the authenticity of email content. This gives employees the opportunity to report any suspicious activity and to contribute to the prevention of any incident that can cause damage to the company, whether it be financial losses or loss of reputation.
  • Be cautious when opening email attachments from unknown senders.

Don’t wait for your organization to become another statistic and fall victim to a BEC attack. Try Spamina Advanced Threat Protection today, because prevention is fundamental to your business.