Business email compromise: How it works and examples of attacks

Business email compromise: How it works and examples of attacks

Business email compromise (BEC) is a significant threat in the world of cybercrime, costing businesses billions of dollars in losses. What makes this form of attack particularly alarming is that it requires minimal technical skills from perpetrators. With just a single email or attachment, attackers can gain access to confidential company data, financial information, and other sensitive materials.

If you haven’t heard of BEC, don’t worry — this blog post will tell you all about it. We’ll cover how BEC attacks work, common types, and why your small business should be concerned about this form of cybercrime.

What is a BEC attack?

A BEC attack is a type of cybercrime in which attackers pretend to be trustworthy individuals or organizations to trick victims into taking fraudulent actions. The attackers achieve this by using social engineering tactics to convince victims to transfer funds, share sensitive information, or perform other actions that benefit the attackers. BEC attacks are typically aimed at businesses and target their employees, customers, or vendors.

BEC attacks are different from traditional email scams in that BEC usually involves more advanced tactics. Attackers go to great lengths to study their victims and create emails or messages tailored to them. These messages may contain malicious attachments, links to malicious websites, and/or requests for confidential information. They also often use different lures to try and entice victims into taking the desired action, such as claiming that they need immediate action due to a security breach, an impending financial emergency, or a job opportunity.

Related reading: The 5 most dangerous cybersecurity threats to businesses

What are some common types of BEC attacks?

BEC attacks can take many forms and target different people. Common types include the following:

CEO fraud

In this scheme, attackers impersonate a high-level executive, such as the CEO, and send emails to employees requesting urgent wire transfers or confidential information. These emails appear legitimate due to meticulous research and the careful replication of the CEO's email signature and communication style.

Bogus invoice schemes

These scams involve attackers pretending to be a trusted vendor or supplier and then sending fraudulent invoices to businesses. The invoices often include modified payment details, such as an altered bank account number, which the attackers can access and use to steal funds. If the target businesses pay the invoice, they will be unknowingly transferring money to the attacker's account, which can result in significant financial losses.

Account compromise

This occurs when attackers use phishing or social engineering techniques to gain unauthorized access to an employee's email account. They then monitor the compromised account to gather information on financial transactions, sensitive data, or potential targets for further attacks.

Attorney impersonation

Attackers in this scenario pose as a legitimate attorney and contact businesses with requests for money or confidential information. The attackers often impersonate lawyers from respected firms and use language that appears to be legitimate, making it difficult for victims to tell the difference between real and fake legal correspondences.

Fake data collection

In this type of BEC scam, attackers create a fake website or online survey, pretending to be associated with the targeted business. They then use this platform to collect confidential information, which can later be used for identity theft, fraud, or other malicious purposes.

How can your small business protect itself against BEC attacks?

For small businesses like yours, it's crucial to take steps to create a secure environment by adopting proactive security measures. Start by exercising caution when opening and responding to emails, especially those involving financial transactions or requests for sensitive information. Take the time to verify email addresses and watch out for any signs of inconsistency or suspicious behavior.

Implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) for all business email accounts is another vital step. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide more than one piece of evidence to verify their identity. This could be a unique code sent to their mobile device or a one-time PIN generated by an authenticator app.

Furthermore, conducting regular security awareness training for your employees is essential. Educate them about BEC attacks, phishing techniques, and other cyberthreats. By enhancing their knowledge and awareness, you empower them to become the first line of defense against cybercrime.

Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing effort. Staying vigilant and up to date with the latest threats and best practices is crucial in protecting your business. By implementing these measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to BEC attacks and safeguard your business from potential financial losses and data breaches.

If you need further assistance or more information on securing your business against BEC attacks, contact Kortek Solutions. We provide comprehensive cybersecurity solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of small- and medium-sized businesses in the Las Vegas area.