Attackers Are Landing Email Inboxes Without the Need to Phish

By Alastair Paterson on November 23, 2018

We’ve all heard the proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Well now, threat actors don’t even have to exert the effort to phish to land business email accounts.

According to an alert published earlier this year by the FBI, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) have caused $12 billion in losses since October 2013. Traditionally, social engineering and intrusion techniques have been the most common ways to gain access to business email accounts and dupe individuals to wire funds to an attacker-controlled account. These methods play out as follows:

1. Social engineering and email spoofing: Attackers will use social engineering to pose as a colleague or business partner and send fake requests for information or the transfer of funds. These emails can be quite convincing as the attacker makes a significant effort to identify an appropriate victim and register a fake domain, so that at first glance the email appears to belong to a colleague or supplier.

2. Account takeover: Here, attackers use information-stealing malware and key loggers to gain access to and hijack a corporate email account, which they then use to make fraudulent requests to colleagues, accounting departments and suppliers. They can also alter mailbox rules so that the victim’s email messages are forwarded to the attacker, or emails sent by the attacker are deleted from the list of sent emails.

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