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
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.