Watch out for Business Email Compromise!

23 Jun Sat,2018 Doug Kouns

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of scam targeting companies who conduct wire transfers and have suppliers abroad.  Corporate or publicly available email accounts of executives or high-level employees related to finance or involved with wire transfer payments are either spoofed or compromised through keyloggers or phishing attacks to do fraudulent transfers, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.  In 2016, BEC attacks led to an average of US$140,000 in losses for companies globally.

Formerly dubbed as Man-in-the-Email scams, BEC attackers rely heavily on social engineering tactics to trick unsuspecting employees and executives.  Often, they impersonate CEO or any executive authorized to do wire transfers.  In addition, fraudsters also carefully research and closely monitor their potential target victims and their organizations.

Some of the sample email messages have subjects containing words such as requestpaymenttransfer, and urgent, among others.  Based on FBI, there are 5 types of BEC scams:

  • The Bogus Invoice Scheme- Companies with foreign suppliers are often targeted with this tactic, wherein attackers pretend to be the suppliers requesting fund transfers for payments to an account owned by fraudsters.
  • CEO Fraud- Attackers pose as the company CEO or any executive and send an email to employees in finance, requesting them to transfer money to the account they control.
  • Account Compromise-An executive or employee’s email account is hacked and used to request invoice payments to vendors listed in their email contacts. Payments are then sent to fraudulent bank accounts.
  • Attorney Impersonation- Attackers pretend to be a lawyer or someone from the law firm supposedly in charge of crucial and confidential matters.  Normally, such bogus requests are done through email or phone, and during the end of the business day.
  • Data Theft – Employees under HR and bookkeeping are targeted to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) or tax statements of employees and executives. Such data can be used for future attacks.

Because these scams do not have any malicious links or attachments, they can evade traditional solutions. Employee training and awareness can help enterprises spot this type of scam.

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