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

8/28/2015
02:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

FBI Sounds Alarm Again On Business Email Compromise Threat

Over 7,000 US business have been victimized by so-called BEC fraud between October 2013 and August 2015 alone, the FBI said in an alert this week.

Over the past two years, cybercriminals have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from US businesses by compromising their official email accounts and using those accounts to initiate fraudulent wire transfers.

Between October 2013 and August 2015, over 7,000 US businesses were victimized by the so-called Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam and reported a staggering $748 million in actual and attempted losses, the FBI said in an alert issued late yesterday.

Around the world, another 1,113 companies reported similar incidents over the same period. The FBI estimated losses from these incidents at around $51 million.

The FBI alert described the scam as being primarily targeted at businesses that work with foreign suppliers and who regularly conduct wire transfer payments from the US to the foreign supplier. According to the FBI, BEC is a scam in which attackers try to gain access to a business email account belonging to a CFO, CTO, or some high-ranking executive using phishing and social engineering techniques.

In recent times, there has been an increase in the use of computer intrusion techniques to gain access to business email accounts, the FBI said. Many of these intrusions are initiated using sophisticated phishing scams in which victims are sent an email that appears to come from a legitimate source. When an unsuspecting user clicks on the malicious link attached to the email, it drops malware on the system that steals the victim’s data, including passwords and financial account information.

The attackers then use the compromised email account to send instructions to the company’s bank, or to someone with authority at the company to initiate a wire transfer request to a foreign bank account. Many of the fraudulent transfers at going to banks located with China and Hong Kong, the FBI said.

This week’s alert is the second one that the FBI has issued on the topic since January signaling its leveling of concern over the issue. The agency first sounded the alarm in January, when the FBI said it expected the number of victims and the total dollar loss for the scam to skyrocket.

"The BEC scam continues to grow and evolve and it targets businesses of all sizes," this week's FBI alert said. "There has been a 270 percent increase in identified victims and exposed loss since January 2015."

Between January and August, the FBI said it has seen a new tactic being used by attackers to try and pry loose sensitive data from business executives that they can use to initiate fake wire transfers. This tactic involves top executives being contacted by fraudsters posing as lawyers and legal representatives on some confidential or time-sensitive matter. Victims are pressured to act quickly or confidentially in transferring funds. Often, such scams happen at the end of a workday or work week, the FBI cautioned.

Another tactic used by attackers to trick companies into parting with their money is to send spoofed emails purportedly from a supplier requesting that funds for an invoice payment be sent to an alternate account.

The FBI has some recommendations for businesses that want to avoid becoming victims of the scam. Among that is the recommendation to create new intrusion detection system rules to flag emails with extensions that are similar to the company’s official email. "For example, legitimate e-mail ofabc_company.com would flag fraudulent e-mail of abc-company.com," the FBI said.

Similarly, the FBI encouraged businesses to register all company domains that are slightly different from the actual company name and to add a two-factor authentication mechanism to verify changes in vendor or supplier location. 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
100%
0%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2015 | 11:34:25 PM
Phishing attempts
Good luck reducing successful phishing attempts to zero, in any case.  One speaker at a conference I attended recently discussed a study in which employees of a company were sent a "fake" phishing email by their IT department that said something to the effect, "WARNING.  THIS IS A PHISHING EMAIL.  DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK" -- and still about 10% of employees clicked the link.  When asked why they did, the universal response was, "I wanted to see what would happen."
macker490
0%
100%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
8/29/2015 | 9:25:45 AM
two stupid errors -- not sophisticated
error No. 1 using an insecure o/s

a secure o/s is one which will not allow itselft to be compromised by the activity of an application program such as e/mail or flash

 

error no. 2 failure to authenticate

by now everyone should have incorporated PGP/Desktop into their Outlook systems -- or switched to ENIGMAIL/Thunderbird .  where these have not been done a phone call to confirm the e/mail should be used .   

 

do security or pay the hackers.   your choice .
How Attackers Infiltrate the Supply Chain & What to Do About It
Shay Nahari, Head of Red-Team Services at CyberArk,  7/16/2019
US Mayors Commit to Just Saying No to Ransomware
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/16/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-14230
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-21
An issue was discovered in the Viral Quiz Maker - OnionBuzz plugin before 1.2.7 for WordPress. One could exploit the id parameter in the set_count ajax nopriv handler due to there being no sanitization prior to use in a SQL query in saveQuestionVote. This allows an unauthenticated/unprivileged user ...
CVE-2019-14231
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-21
An issue was discovered in the Viral Quiz Maker - OnionBuzz plugin before 1.2.2 for WordPress. One could exploit the points parameter in the ob_get_results ajax nopriv handler due to there being no sanitization prior to use in a SQL query in getResultByPointsTrivia. This allows an unauthenticated/un...
CVE-2019-14207
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-21
An issue was discovered in Foxit PhantomPDF before 8.3.11. The application could crash when calling the clone function due to an endless loop resulting from confusing relationships between a child and parent object (caused by an append error).
CVE-2019-14208
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-21
An issue was discovered in Foxit PhantomPDF before 8.3.10. The application could be exposed to a NULL pointer dereference and crash when getting a PDF object from a document, or parsing a certain portfolio that contains a null dictionary.
CVE-2019-14209
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-21
An issue was discovered in Foxit PhantomPDF before 8.3.10. The application could be exposed to Heap Corruption due to data desynchrony when adding AcroForm.