What Is Business Email Compromise, How to Defend Against It?

Scams involving email compromise are becoming a common danger for companies everywhere. Cybercriminals have developed sophisticated methods to take advantage of email system flaws, which have led to financial loss, data breaches, and reputational harm. Organizations must comprehend the nature of email compromise and implement strong defense measures to protect their operations. It is important to fully examine how corporate emails may be compromised, the many sorts of assaults, and advice on how to avoid falling victim to such frauds.

What Is the Process of Business Email Compromise?

A Business email compromise (BEC) attack is a technique used by cybercriminals to trick workers, clients, or vendors into activities that are advantageous to the attackers. Typically, the procedure includes the following steps:

  1. Reconnaissance: Attackers thoroughly investigate the target company, its personnel, partners, and suppliers. They acquire data from open sources, social networking sites, and hacked accounts in order to fully comprehend the connections and communication patterns within the company.
  2. Initial Compromise: Using techniques like phishing, malware, or credential theft, cybercriminals obtain illegal access to a targeted email account. Once in charge, they may keep an eye on the account, acquire important data, and identify possible targets.
  3. Impersonation: Attackers choose a good target and assume the identity of a reliable employee to attack. They alter or establish new email addresses to seem like authentic accounts. They maximize the chance that their fraudulent actions may go unreported by imitating well-known acquaintances.
  4. Social Engineering: Cybercriminals use social engineering strategies to trick their victims into specific activities. This can entail making a last-minute wire transfer request, updating account details, or divulging private data. The perpetrators use psychological tricks, a sense of urgency, and their position of power to persuade the victim to comply with their requests.
  5. Exploitation: Once the target succumbs to the ruse, the attackers make use of the stolen email account to steal money, get sensitive information, or alter corporate procedures for their own gain.

How Many Types of Business Email Compromises Are There?

Business email compromise refers to a variety of attack methods, each with its unique modus operandi. The following are some BEC examples:

  1. CEO Fraud: Attackers pose as high-ranking officials, frequently the CEO, and demand the release of confidential information or urgent financial transactions. This kind of fraud uses power and urgency to persuade staff to forego standard security policy.
  2. Invoice Manipulation: Cybercriminals intercept valid invoices sent back and forth between firms and change the payment information, including the account number or routing number. Unaware workers continue to make payments, which causes money to be transferred to the attacker's account.
  3. Vendor Email Compromise: Attackers target the lines of communication between businesses and their suppliers. They can send phony requests for payment modifications or instill a sense of urgency for fast transfers by hacking into a vendor's email account.
  4. Lawyer Impersonation: In this scam, fraudsters pretend to be attorneys or other legal agents involved in current transactions. They exert pressure on their victims to provide private details about legal concerns or shift money to bogus accounts.
  5. Employee Impersonation: Online fraudsters set fake email addresses that resemble those of regular workers or superiors. They take advantage of the trust that exists between coworkers to trick victims into doing things that help the attackers, including starting unlawful financial transfers.

what is business email compromise

How to Defend Against Business Email Compromise Attacks?

A complete strategy that incorporates technology solutions, personnel knowledge, and strong security procedures is needed to defend against business email compromise. The following are some strong countermeasures:

  1. Employee Training: Remind staff members on a regular basis to follow best practices for email security, such as avoiding phishing scams, suspicious attachments, and double-checking email inquiries for legitimacy. Teach your employees to be wary of sudden or strange requests and to independently confirm any changes to payment or account information through recognized channels.
  2. Strong Authentication and Access Controls: For email accounts and other crucial systems, use multi-factor authentication (MFA). By asking users to give other verification elements in addition to their password, such as a special code sent to their mobile device, this offers an extra layer of protection. Only authorized workers should have access to sensitive systems and data, and access should be frequently reviewed and revoked for former employees.
  3. Email Filtering and Security Solutions: Use sophisticated email filtering tools to identify and stop phishing scams, harmful emails, and suspicious attachments. These systems examine email content, sender reputation, and other signs of fraud using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. To further avoid email spoofing, think about installing Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), which works by confirming the legitimacy of incoming emails.
  4. Robust Password Policies: Enforce stringent password regulations that use a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, digits, and special characters throughout the business. Encourage staff members not to use passwords that are obvious or widely used. Remind staff members to change their passwords frequently and think about putting in place a password management system to guarantee that each account is protected by a different password.
  5. Vendor and Partner Due Diligence: Establish reliable procedures for examining the credibility of partners and suppliers. Do extensive background investigations and email searches on people, making sure to confirm their contact details, reputation, and security procedures. To validate any changes in payment or account information, speak with known contacts immediately via trusted means.
  6. Encrypted Communication: Use encrypted communication methods to send important information wherever feasible. Even if the transmission is intercepted, encryption improves email security and makes sure that the contents are unintelligible to unauthorized parties. To share private information, promote the usage of secure file-sharing services or encrypted email services.
  7. Incident Response Plan: Create an incident response strategy that explains what should be done in the event that a company's email system is compromised. This strategy should include how: events should be reported, compromised accounts should be isolated, forensic investigations should be carried out, and pertinent parties should be notified. Test and update the plan regularly.
  8. Continuous Monitoring and Threat Intelligence: Implement ongoing network and email traffic monitoring to find any unusual activity or illegal access attempts. Utilize threat intelligence sources, security forums, and trade journals to stay current on the most recent email compromise strategies and trends. Organizations may proactively detect and mitigate new hazards with the use of this knowledge.

Any Sized Business Needs to Beware of Email Compromise Scams

Scams involving business email compromise provide a serious risk to enterprises of all sizes and industries. Businesses should proactively protect themselves from these frauds by understanding email compromise and the many attack types. To successfully guard against email compromise, a mix of technical solutions, personnel training, and strong security standards is needed. Organizations may dramatically lower the danger of falling for these scams by putting strong authentication, email filtering tools, and strict password restrictions in place. Additionally, promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness and giving staff frequent training will improve the company's resistance against email compromise assaults.