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

New, Improved BEC Campaigns Target HR and Finance

Spearphishing campaigns from new and established business email compromise (BEC) gangs are stealing from companies using multiple tactics.

A wave of business email compromise (BEC) campaigns targeting direct-deposit payroll information demonstrate once again that sophisticated technical skills aren't necessary when you can convince employees to simply hand you money.

Vade Secure recently discovered an ongoing direct-deposit spear-phishing campaign that used conversational email messages to make first contact with HR representatives in an attempt to enlist their help in re-directing direct deposit funds into the criminals' accounts.

Adrien Gendre, chief solution architect for Vade Secure, says BEC-type attacks are popular because the cost is cheap and when successful, the results are rapid. Vade Secure has seen this type of spear phishing attack across multiple customers in recent months. "It's not isolated, that's for sure," he says.

The widespread nature of the problem is amplified in a new report by Agari Data on London Blue, a multinational gang conducting BEC campaigns first revealed in December. London Blue harvests the names and addresses of targets from legitimate sources, buying access to executives from companies paid to provide contact information (typically for legitimate marketing operations).

In the attacks originally reported by Agari Data, the London Blue group used a typical business email compromise (BEC) subterfuge in which the attacker pretends to be a vendor owed money by the victim. In the most recent campaign, the group has switched cover stories and is now pretending that urgent M&A activity requires a rapid down-payment to an account which (because of the secret nature of the negotiations) is not in the victim's accounting system.

With BEC scams, attackers often use common public email services, such as AOL, Gmail, or HotMail, as the source of their spear-phishing messages. Agari Data notes that, in February, London Blue switched to spoofing the company email address of the CEO in order to add urgency and authenticity to their attack messages.

The campaign Vade Secure reports on doesn't use address spoofing: instead, they conduct a multi-phase campaign in which step one is to obtain email account credentials from a high-level employee. After that, the employee's legitimate account is used to send illegitimate spear-phishing email messages to the finance department seeking payment to a throwaway criminal account.

"At its core, it's a fraud issue," says Phil Reitinger, president and CEO of Global Cyber Alliance. "It's a different way to do an attack that is the same basic fraud that you could do with a phone or by sending a fake invoice," he explains. And that's why protection against these attacks involves both process and technology.

"If it's possible for someone to request a check to be cut for $5 million to someone not in the system, you've got a problem," Reitinger says. And the culture of many companies is set up to provide just that problem.

It's basically a form of social engineering. "Criminals are often using people's fear of authority or responsiveness to authority," says Colin Bastable, CEO of Lucy Security. "But you're also targeting people who want to get things done you know and they're empowered. So it is really about behavior."

Both Reitinger and Bastable say that robust financial-control systems can play a huge role in protecting against campaigns like these, as can technology that identifies and protects against spoofed email addresses and highly suspect email contents.

Related Content:

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Hacking It as a CISO: Advice for Security Leadership
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 New Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities That Could Put Your Enterprise at Risk
In this Dark Reading Tech Digest, we look at the ways security researchers and ethical hackers find critical vulnerabilities and offer insights into how you can fix them before attackers can exploit them.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-17475
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of authentication in the network relays used in MEGVII Koala 2.9.1-c3s allows attackers to grant physical access to anyone by sending packet data to UDP port 5000.
CVE-2020-0255
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2020-10751. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2020-10751. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2020-10751 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-14353
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2017-18270. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2017-18270. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2017-18270 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-17464
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-17473
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of mutual authentication in ZKTeco FaceDepot 7B 1.0.213 and ZKBiosecurity Server 1.0.0_20190723 allows an attacker to obtain a long-lasting token by impersonating the server.