Technologies

Chris Swagler | March 4th, 2024

 

Business email compromise (BEC) is a sophisticated cybercrime that primarily targets companies, governments, and non-profit organizations. It’s a hazard that has grown rapidly in recent years. BEC schemes attempt to deceive employees into transferring payments or disclosing important sensitive information to cybercriminals acting as valued colleagues or clients. The technique is simple but effective. The cybercriminal impersonates a top executive or a key vendor and sends an email to an unsuspecting employee containing an apparently genuine business request. The email may request an urgent wire transfer or sensitive information. The naive employee, believing they are collaborating in an essential commercial transaction, unintentionally becomes an accomplice in a crime with serious consequences for the corporation. The implications of BEC assaults are far-reaching. It is not just a financial concern, but it may also harm an organization’s reputation and may have legal and regulatory ramifications. Understanding the scope and impact of BEC is crucial for any company looking to protect itself against the pernicious threat by using the four technologies.

Impact on Companies from BEC

The impact of business email compromise on companies is significant and diverse. It’s more than simply the immediate financial loss, which can be significant. The damage extends to companies’ reputations and can result in legal and regulatory implications.

Financial Losses and the Consequences to Companies

The most immediate consequences of BEC attacks are financial. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), BEC scams have caused billions of dollars in global losses. These aren’t minor, isolated incidents but a widespread and growing threat. The financial ramifications of BEC attacks can be catastrophic. Depending on the size of the companies and the amount of money involved, it can result in bankruptcy. Even for larger companies that can sustain the financial damage, a significant loss might have an impact on the bottom line, leading to layoffs, reductions, or other undesirable results. The financial damage doesn’t end with the instant loss of funds. Additionally, there may be substantial expenditures connected with investigating the attacks, upgrading security measures, and retrieving lost funds. All the expenses are prohibitively expensive for most companies.

Reputation Damage to Companies

Aside from financial losses, BEC attacks can have severe impacts on companies’ reputations. Trust is an essential component in any company relationship. When companies fall victim to BEC attacks, clients, customers, and employees may distrust companies’ competency and security. Reputational harm can have long-term consequences for companies. It can result in lost revenue since clients and customers may prefer to do business elsewhere rather than risk being victims of similar attacks. Additionally, it can influence companies’ stock prices and investor confidence. Recovering from reputational damage isn’t easy. Rebuilding trust with customers and clients takes time and money. In certain circumstances, the damage may be so extensive that recovery is impossible.

Regulatory and Legal Implications

BEC attacks can have legal and regulatory repercussions. Regulatory organizations may fine or penalize companies based on the type of attacks and the information compromised. In some situations, they may face litigation from customers or clients who were impacted by the attacks. Even if companies aren’t directly fined, they may face heightened scrutiny by regulators. It can result in additional costs and issues, since companies may need to invest in better security measures or cope with the consequences of a regulatory probe.

Four Technologies to Fight Against BEC

DMARC

Domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) is an email authentication system that enables email domain owners to protect their domains from unauthorized use, often known as email spoofing. The DMARC policy allows senders’ domains to declare that their emails are secured by sender policy framework (SPF) or DomianKeys identified mail (DKIM), and it instructs receivers what to do if neither of the authentication methods is successful, including junking or rejecting the message. DMARC takes the guesswork out of how receivers handle failed messages, limiting, or eliminating users’ exposure to potentially fraudulent and harmful messages. Implementing DMARC can help protect against BEC by making it difficult for threat operators to impersonate companies’ email domains. To be effective, it must be properly configured and managed on a continuous basis.

Advanced Email Filtering Solutions

Advanced email filtering solutions can provide a strong initial line of defense against BEC. The tools employ sophisticated algorithms to examine incoming emails for evidence of phishing or other malicious activities. They can detect suspicious links, attachments, and uncommon language that may signal BEC attempts. Additionally, effective email filtering solutions can prevent or quarantine suspicious emails, lowering the possibility of employees mistakenly clicking on malicious links or attachments. The technology can help prevent BEC attacks by intercepting them before they reach the inbox.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is another effective solution for preventing BEC. MFA requires users to give two or more authentication factors before gaining access to a resource, including an email account. It can make it substantially more difficult for threat operators to breach accounts, even if they have the passwords. MFA is particularly useful against BEC threats because it adds an extra degree of security. Even if cybercriminals can deceive employees into giving their passwords, they will still need to circumvent the additional authentication factor, which may be fingerprints, one-time codes given to mobile devices, or hardware tokens.

Anomaly Detection Using AI and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are transforming how companies are battling cybersecurity threats, including BEC attacks. The tools can examine massive volumes of data to detect trends that may signal BEC attacks. AI and machine learning-based anomaly detection systems can monitor email traffic and understand typical patterns of activities. Companies can report any suspicious activities, including unexpected wire transfer requests or emails from unknown contacts that don’t follow their typical writing style.

There are numerous technologies at companies’ disposal in their fight against BEC. Advanced email filtering solutions, MFA, AI and machine learning-based anomaly detection, DMARC, and employee training and awareness initiatives are all critical components of protecting against attacks. It’s critical that no single technology or technique can provide total protection. A layered approach incorporating numerous technology and procedures will be the most effective defense against BEC. At SpearTip, our training modules educate personnel at the client organization by sending them training emails that contain short videos around a security topic, requiring them to answer questions about the information presented. Interaction with the video and questionnaire is tracked and provided back to the client. Our phishing assessments test and educate personnel at the client organization. This is done by sending them non-malicious phishing emails, observing their responses, and providing a short training video on the dangers of phishing and how to spot it. Cybersecurity awareness training is an essential component of any comprehensive strategy to protect sensitive information, such as personal data, financial information, or intellectual property, and to prevent data breaches, system downtime, and other negative consequences that can result from cyberattacks.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.

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