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
News
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Commentary
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-23371
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
This affects the package chrono-node before 2.2.4. It hangs on a date-like string with lots of embedded spaces.
CVE-2020-24285
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
INTELBRAS TELEFONE IP TIP200 version 60.61.75.22 allows an attacker to obtain sensitive information through /cgi-bin/cgiServer.exx.
CVE-2021-29379
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
** UNSUPPORTED WHEN ASSIGNED ** An issue was discovered on D-Link DIR-802 A1 devices through 1.00b05. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is enabled by default on port 1900. An attacker can perform command injection by injecting a payload into the Search Target (ST) field of the SSDP M-SEARCH discover pa...
CVE-2015-20001
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-11
In the standard library in Rust before 1.2.0, BinaryHeap is not panic-safe. The binary heap is left in an inconsistent state when the comparison of generic elements inside sift_up or sift_down_range panics. This bug leads to a drop of zeroed memory as an arbitrary type, which can result in a memory ...
CVE-2020-36317
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-11
In the standard library in Rust before 1.49.0, String::retain() function has a panic safety problem. It allows creation of a non-UTF-8 Rust string when the provided closure panics. This bug could result in a memory safety violation when other string APIs assume that UTF-8 encoding is used on the sam...