Business email compromise (BEC) scammers targeted victims' out-of-office replies and read receipts during the 2020 holiday season, when many took time off work and automatic replies were more prevalent, researchers report.
Attackers targeted victims by redirecting their own Microsoft 365 out-of-office messages back to them, Abnormal Security noticed. A scammer would write an extortion email and manipulate the email headers ("Reply-To"). If the target has an out-of-office reply turned on, the alert can be redirected to a second target within the organization — not back to the attacker, researchers report.
"Even though the original extortion email was auto-remediated, the manipulated email header triggered an Out of Office reply to a second target that includes the text of the extortion," they write in a blog post.
Similarly, in a "read receipts" attack, the scammer would write an extortion email and change the email headers ("Disposition-Notification-To") so the target would receive a read receipt notification from Microsoft 365 instead of the attacker. The manipulated email header would trigger a read-receipt notification back to the target, which includes the text of the extortion.
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