• “CEO Fraud,” a cyberattack and persistent threat, involves hostile actors impersonating a trusted figure in a company to trick staff into taking inappropriate acts. Executives, finance departments, and data handlers are targeted by these attacks.
  • Whether through fraudulent wire transfers, diverted payroll, or altered payment details, BEC attacks siphon off considerable sums, leading to direct monetary repercussions.

Amidst the modern digital era, businesses heavily hinge upon email communication for their daily operations! Yet, within this convenience lies the lurking menace of cybercrime tactics and techniques, particularly the ominous shadow of business email compromise (BEC)!

This sophisticated form of cyberattack has emerged as a significant concern for organizations worldwide, posing substantial financial and reputational risks. Understanding BEC and implementing preventive measures is crucial in safeguarding your business.

What is a Business Email Compromise?

It is often referred to as “CEO Fraud,” a type of cyberattack and persistent threat where malicious actors impersonate a trusted entity within an organization to deceive employees into performing unauthorized actions. These attacks target key personnel like executives, finance departments, or individuals handling sensitive data.

Types of Business Email Compromise

BEC attacks manifest in various forms, yet they consistently exploit trusted relationships to execute their plans. Below are several methods through which attackers employ social engineering to acquire money and data from businesses illicitly:

  • Wire transfer requests

A common BEC attack involves the attacker posing as a prominent figure within the company, often the CEO or CFO. They urgently demand an immediate wire transfer, exploiting the time-sensitive nature to bypass scrutiny. Employees, not verifying the state of email security, fulfill the request unwittingly, transferring substantial sums to the attacker’s account.

  • Invoice fraud

The recipient gets a falsified invoice purportedly from a familiar vendor, but the attacker manipulates the bank details, redirecting payments to their account. This deceptive business email compromise type may stem from a compromised vendor account or altering the display name, aiming to evade close scrutiny by the victim.

  • Payroll diversion

Within these deceptive emails, the assailant adopts an individual’s identity within your organization, reaching out to a finance or HR employee. They coerce the recipient into altering payroll details and directing payments to the attacker’s account. The person being impersonated frequently remains unaware of the diverted payroll until their expected paycheck fails to materialize in their account at month’s end.

  • Gift card requests

Particularly common during holiday seasons, these solicited business email compromise scams resemble wire transfer requests but differ in nature—they prompt employees to procure gift cards for events celebrating employees or customers. Following the purchase, the attacker instructs the victim to forward the gift card numbers to them.

Impact of Business Email Compromise

The IC3 Internet Crime Report documented 19,954 victims of BEC attacks in 2021, resulting in an average financial loss of USD 120,000 per attack for affected organizations.

However, this count solely encompasses successful attacks where victims were deceived into transferring funds. The overall impact of BEC attacks is substantially more remarkable, with an average organization facing over 65 BEC attempts each month.

Business email compromise cases wield a profound and multi-faceted impact on organizations across various sectors. Primarily, such a wave of cyber-attacks inflicts substantial financial losses, eroding the economic stability of the business.

Whether through fraudulent wire transfers, diverted payroll, or altered payment details, business email compromise frauds siphon off considerable sums, leading to direct monetary repercussions. Moreover, the financial aftermath extends beyond the immediate loss, often encompassing legal fees, investigation costs, and potential regulatory fines, further denting the affected organization’s financial health.

Beyond the financial strain, the repercussions of BEC attacks extend to operational disruptions and compromised trust. These attacks disrupt connected business operations, leading to workflow interruptions, strained relationships with partners or vendors, and tarnished reputations.

The erosion of trust, internally among employees and externally with clients or stakeholders, can have enduring ramifications, impacting the organization’s credibility and long-term viability. Additionally, the psychological toll on employees who may inadvertently fall victim to business email compromise schemes can create an atmosphere of uncertainty and diminished confidence in internal communications, hindering productivity and morale within the organization.

How to Stop Business Email Compromise?

Expansive corporate entities require an appropriate email security infrastructure to thwart these exceptionally intricate attacks. Besides, the upcoming era of security necessitates the inclusion of:

  • Fortified API architecture

It is a resolution that interfaces with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace through an API, granting access to essential signals and data crucial for identifying questionable activities. This prevents business email compromise, detecting uncommon geo locations, potentially harmful IP addresses, alterations in mail filter regulations, atypical device logins, and other relevant indicators.

  • Behavioral data science approach

The solution ought to employ a fundamentally distinct approach by utilizing behavioral data science platforms to create profiles of acceptable behavior and recognize deviations. It incorporates BEC prevention techniques like identity modeling, behavioral and relational graphs, and in-depth content analysis to pinpoint and prevent emails containing dubious content or requests.

  • Organizational and supply chain efforts

A practical solution that comprehends both the structured and unstructured organizational hierarchy, delineating internal and inter-organizational connections to grasp customary communication and collaboration methods and conduct. This BEC fraud protection emphasizes vendor associations to fortify defenses against email compromise, account infiltrations, and assorted fraudulent activities within the supply chain.

  • External email labeling

Email compromising attacks frequently attempt to mimic internal email addresses through domain spoofing or similar-looking domains. Setting up email security services to categorize external emails originating from outside the company can effectively counteract this strategy and help protect against business email compromise.

To Conclude

There’s minimal uncertainty regarding the widespread and financially detrimental nature of business email compromise. These attacks capitalize on the established relationships among individuals, including executives, colleagues, and associates, successfully deceiving both conventional email security tools and the individuals they aim at.

Curbing fraudulent business email compromise demands a solution to identify and analyze the myriad signals accessible through an API, subsequently scrutinizing them for significant deviations from established norms. Only by preventing these attacks from infiltrating inboxes can we guarantee our organizations’ sustained protection.

Explore our extensive collection of security–related whitepapers to enhance your knowledge and expertise.