Chris Swagler | December 27th, 2023


In an alarming revelation, a cybersecurity company’s latest blog post has highlighted the persistent and growing menace of advanced email attacks, posing a significant threat to organizations worldwide, with healthcare institutions finding themselves in the crosshairs. The cybersecurity firm reported a staggering 167 percent surge in advanced email attacks in 2023, encompassing malicious activities such as business email compromise (BEC), malware, credential phishing, and extortion.

The healthcare sector, which plays a commendable role in alleviating patient suffering, enhancing health outcomes, and maintaining a highly intricate interconnected system, is now facing an adversary in the form of cybercriminals. These malefactors perceive healthcare organizations as treasure troves of valuable data and detest any disruptions in their operations, making them prime targets for nefarious activities, particularly socially engineered attacks like BEC.

Throughout early 2023, the onslaught of advanced email attacks averaged a staggering 55.66 attacks per 1,000 mailboxes, reaching an ominous peak of over 100 attacks per 1,000 mailboxes in March. Although the numbers settled into a somewhat consistent pattern of nearly 61.16 attacks for the remainder of the year, experts warn that the trend is likely to persist and potentially escalate until the holiday season, when cybercriminals might briefly relent before resuming their onslaught in the new year.

As previously reported, social engineering techniques, including phishing, remain an effective and easily exploitable avenue for malicious actors to infiltrate networks. The cybersecurity company’s H1 2023 Email Threat Report unveiled a disconcerting finding: among various industries, healthcare employees were the most susceptible to reading and responding to malicious emails, trailing only behind the transportation and automotive sectors.

However, the latest blog post exposes an even more troubling trend – the burgeoning prevalence of text-based BEC attacks. A comparative analysis of data collected between January and August of the previous year and the current year reveals a shocking 279 percent increase in the median number of BEC attacks, surging from a meager 0.22 attacks in 2022 to a concerning 0.84 attacks in 2023.

Given this escalating threat landscape, the cybersecurity company strongly urges healthcare defenders to maintain heightened vigilance against BEC attacks, underpinned by recent findings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3’s latest Internet Crime Report has observed an uptick in phishing activities along with increasingly sophisticated BEC tactics.

The IC3 noted, “As threat operators have become more sophisticated and preventative measures have been put in place, the BEC scheme has continually evolved in kind.” This evolution entails a shift from simplistic breaching and email spoofing to more elaborate schemes involving fraudulent requests for wire payments to compromised bank accounts.

Considering these daunting challenges, healthcare organizations must proactively address cyber risks by educating their employees on the telltale signs of email compromise while implementing robust technical safeguards. Failure to do so could leave the sector vulnerable to a relentless wave of advanced email attacks, with potentially dire consequences for patient data security and the uninterrupted operation of critical healthcare systems. Phishing and social engineering attacks are the most common methods threat actors use to harvest legitimate credentials. SpearTip offers phishing training as mitigation to enhance skills related to defending against these threats. The training tests the discernment of companies’ teams, educates employees regarding common phishing tactics and indicators, and identifies related security gaps in your environment. Our team creates phishing email simulations like those threat actors use and sends them throughout the organizations. We provide insight and feedback to improve the cyber defenses of their team, leading to a profound decrease in the likelihood of being victimized by phishing scams. After the training, our team provides precise and thorough strategies about how to harden their environments and implement ongoing awareness training. By providing cybersecurity awareness training, organizations, and their employees can better understand the risks of the cyber landscape and develop impactful cybersecurity practices that can reduce the likelihood of 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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