Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

6/17/2020
09:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

BEC Attacks on the C-Suite Dropped 37% in Q1

New research shows attackers are targeting and establishing relationships with accounts payable departments.

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks increasingly are targeting accounts payable departments and attempting to establish trust via email exchanges before launching an attack.

Ken Liao, vice president of marketing at Abnormal Security, says people who work in finance or accounts payable often don't know every vendor – many companies have hundreds, even thousands of vendors and suppliers.

"The AP people are lower in the organization, but they still have the ability to make large payments," Liao says. "The criminals impersonate the vendor by folding into the natural workflow."

The numbers don't lie: In a report released today, Abnormal Security saw a 28% increase in the size and frequency of BEC attacks over the fourth quarter of 2019 and a 17% increase in large campaigns aimed at 10 or more recipients. Individual BEC attacks targeting the C-suite dropped by 37%.

According to the report, BEC attackers maintain a targeted approach, but strategically group victims to gain social validity and increase the chances of engagement. When cybercriminals "engage" a victim, they typically don't go for the money in the first email. They slowly create trust by simply asking for a form, or a small piece of information that appears like a legitimate request.

"If an attacker goes after an AP person in a way that fits the role of their job, the victim has no reason to doubt," says Chris Hadnagy, CEO of Social-Engineer LLC. "The BEC attackers have stopped going for the large C-suite players because the media covers it so much and people are aware of those attacks. Plus, people are working from home and they are under a lot of stress from all the news of riots, protest, and the pandemic. Their kids are home and they aren't exercising as much, all of this is just creates an environment for hackers to prey on."

Any way it's sliced, BEC attacks remain a profitable avenue for cybercriminals. The FBI reported in February that BECs accounted for roughly 50% of the $3.5 billion in cybercrime losses in 2019. Some of the more prolific BEC cases include that of Toyota, which lost $37 million, and Nikkei, which lost $29 million.

Hadnagy says along with education and awareness campaigns, companies should consider two approaches to help stem the tide of BECs. First, accounts payable people should slow things down: double-check invoices and whether they are legitimate. Second, C-suite people must empower these employees so they feel comfortable asking about a vendor.

"A lot of times companies will go after the person who made the mistake and fire them, but what I tell them is the problem wasn't the AP person, it was the C-suite," Hadnagy says. "Many companies don't have a way for people to verify if an invoice is legitimate." 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Learn from industry experts in a setting that is conducive to interaction and conversation about how to prepare for that "really bad day" in cybersecurity. Click for more information and to register
Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
JimW024
50%
50%
JimW024,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2020 | 5:20:25 PM
It would have been much more useful to describe what BEC is and how the compromise happens.
Wow. BEC sounds bad. Too bad the article never defines it or explains how the email compromise happens.
Overcoming the Challenge of Shorter Certificate Lifespans
Mike Cooper, Founder & CEO of Revocent,  10/15/2020
7 Tips for Choosing Security Metrics That Matter
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  10/19/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27621
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The FileImporter extension in MediaWiki through 1.35.0 was not properly attributing various user actions to a specific user's IP address. Instead, for various actions, it would report the IP address of an internal Wikimedia Foundation server by omitting X-Forwarded-For data. This resulted in an inab...
CVE-2020-27620
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The Cosmos Skin for MediaWiki through 1.35.0 has stored XSS because MediaWiki messages were not being properly escaped. This is related to wfMessage and Html::rawElement, as demonstrated by CosmosSocialProfile::getUserGroups.
CVE-2020-27619
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
In Python 3 through 3.9.0, the Lib/test/multibytecodec_support.py CJK codec tests call eval() on content retrieved via HTTP.
CVE-2020-17454
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
WSO2 API Manager 3.1.0 and earlier has reflected XSS on the "publisher" component's admin interface. More precisely, it is possible to inject an XSS payload into the owner POST parameter, which does not filter user inputs. By putting an XSS payload in place of a valid Owner Name, a modal b...
CVE-2020-24421
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
Adobe InDesign version 15.1.2 (and earlier) is affected by a memory corruption vulnerability due to insecure handling of a malicious .indd file, potentially resulting in arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability.