Business email compromise (“BEC”) is a type of cyberattack that targets businesses and organizations by manipulating email accounts to conduct fraudulent activities. This type of attack has been on the rise in recent years, with the FBI reporting that BEC scams have cost businesses over $26 billion in losses since 2016. In this article, we will explore what business email compromise is, how it works, and what businesses can do to protect themselves from this growing threat.
What is Business Email Compromise?
BEC is a type of cyberattack that involves the use of email to trick businesses and individuals into transferring money or sensitive information to the attacker. Typically, the attacker will first gain access to a business email account, either through a phishing scam or by exploiting a vulnerability in the email system. Once they have access to the account, the attacker will use it to send fraudulent emails to other employees, customers, or vendors, often impersonating a high-level executive or trusted partner.
The goal of the BEC attack is usually to convince the recipient to transfer funds or sensitive information to the attacker, often by using urgency or fear tactics. For example, the attacker might send an urgent email to an employee requesting that they transfer funds to a supplier, or they might impersonate a high-level executive and request sensitive information such as financial data or login credentials.
How does Business Email Compromise work?
Business email compromise attacks can take many different forms, but they often follow a similar pattern. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how a typical BEC attack might work:
The attacker gains access to a business email account, either through a phishing scam or by exploiting a vulnerability in the email system. The attacker monitors the email account and identifies potential targets, such as employees who are responsible for transferring funds or handling sensitive information. The attacker crafts a fraudulent email that appears to come from a high-level executive or trusted partner, often using urgency or fear tactics to convince the recipient to act quickly. The recipient receives the email and, believing it to be legitimate, takes the requested action, such as transferring funds or providing sensitive information. The attacker receives the funds or information and uses it for their own purposes, often by transferring the funds to offshore accounts or selling the information on the dark web.
What can businesses do to protect themselves?
Business email compromise attacks can be difficult to detect and prevent, but there are several steps that businesses can take to protect themselves from this growing threat. Here are some key strategies for preventing BEC attacks:
Implement strong email security measures: Businesses should implement strong email security measures, such as two-factor authentication and email encryption, to prevent unauthorized access to email accounts. Train employees to recognize phishing scams: Employees should be trained to recognize phishing scams and other types of social engineering attacks, such as fake invoices or requests for sensitive information. Verify requests for funds or sensitive information: Employees should be encouraged to verify requests for funds or sensitive information, especially if the request comes from a high-level executive or a new supplier.
Use a secure payment system: Businesses should use a secure payment system, such as a wire transfer system with built-in security features, to reduce the risk of fraudulent transfers.
Monitor email accounts for suspicious activity: Businesses should monitor email accounts for suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access or unusual login patterns.
Business email compromise is a growing threat to businesses and organizations of all sizes, with attackers using sophisticated tactics to manipulate email accounts and conduct fraudulent activities. To protect themselves from BEC attacks, businesses should implement strong email security measures, train employees to recognize phishing scams, verify requests for funds or sensitive information, use a secure payment system, and hire the legal/technical experts.
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