Strategies to Mitigate Business Email Compromise Threats and Risks

Strategies to Mitigate Business Email Compromise Threats and Risks

Business email compromise has become a significant cybersecurity threat for businesses and individuals.

The recent report by Research and Markets titled “Global Business Email Compromise (BEC) Market” predicts that the market will grow at a CAGR of 19.4% from 2022 to 2027. This report also highlights that the BEC market worldwide will grow from an estimated value of USD 1.1 billion in 2022 to USD 2.8 billion by 2027.

It looks like malicious actors today globally are leveraging new, more sophisticated strategies to accomplish their malicious goals. Data from the IRONSCALES email security platform shows that BEC payment attempts continue to rise this tax season. Last month (March 23), 70% of all BEC attempts were payment requests. By comparison, in March ’22, payment scams accounted for half (50%) of all BEC attempts.

Scammers today are using legitimate platforms to create rogue accounts. They now have access to AI-based tools to create more legitimate-looking emails that can better evade first lines of defense and trick victims — called BEC 3.0.

“If BEC 3.0 is being used to defraud people now, then BEC 4.0 is almost certainly right around the corner. Attackers are getting savvier and more resourceful by the minute. That’s why security teams must share intelligence in real-time and up level their employee training quickly. We need to ensure that the last line of defense — threat hunters on the front lines — have a quick and seamless way of passing on new phishing intel so employees can immediately recognize any attempt and stop it in its tracks,” says IRONSCALES CEO,  Eyal Benishti.

Also Read: Robust Penetration Testing Practices

Organizations need to have a robust security posture and tech stack implemented that helps businesses to identify and mitigate BEC threats before they become significant. Following are a few ways that CISOs can consider mitigating business email compromises threats and risks:

Get an In-Depth Understanding of Common BEC Attacks

Cybercriminals usually depend on a few strategies to use them as vectors and accomplish their BEC scams. Following are a few BEC vectors that cybercriminals can use:

  • Malicious actors intending to accomplish a business email compromise might create a false sense of urgency. These attackers might send spoof emails to the victims and request they transfer money for a business deal the company is going through. Such BEC emails create fake urgency and lure the victims into sharing the deal secrets by themselves.
  • BEC attackers might even use a trick for domain names wherein the victims get an email requesting them to transfer money to a particular account. The message looks like it is sent through a credible resource; however, it’s fake. Such BEC attacks banks on the victims’ lack of attention to the sender.
  • These cybercriminals might even target the victim by impersonating a known vendor. Such cyberattacks include electronic interaction imitating one of the company’s trusted vendors. BEC attacks are difficult to detect in their infancy; because the sender’s domain name is authentic, and the interactions seem legitimate. This challenge happens because the cybercriminal hacked the trusted vendor’s email account to compromise business email.

In any of the cases mentioned earlier, the payment processing will happen to the malicious actor’s account.

Educate the Workforce to Identify the BEC Attacks

One of the most important defense strategies to protect the organization against BEC threats and risks is educating employees with sufficient cybersecurity training. The entire workforce should know the risks and implications of BEC attacks, how to identify them, and how to respond in case of an incident. Business decision-makers must ingrain a sense of responsibility throughout the organization to strengthen cybersecurity. Cybercriminals find BEC lucrative not because of technological advancements but because of human negligence. Security veterans must set clear roles, responsibilities, expectations, and proper guidance to identify and mitigate BEC threats.

Track the Email Exchange Server for Changes

SecOps teams must constantly monitor the configuration and custom rules for particular accounts for any modifications. Designing and enforcing rules that notify the authorities in case of a change is essential to keep the systems secure. Organizations need to be vigilant about if any modifications happen on the email exchange servers to strengthen the security against BEC.

Embrace a Compliance-Driven Work Culture

Only educating the employees will not be able to secure the organizations against sophisticated BEC threats and risks. Cybercriminals are continuously evolving and becoming more sophisticated, making it difficult for victims to identify red flags. CISOs must embrace a culture of compliance throughout the workforce to ensure security against business email compromise. To accomplish a BEC attack, malicious actors target mid-level personnel communicating with the workforce, attorneys, and vendors for a transaction. Ingraining a compliance-driven work culture; enables organizations to ensure that the resources follow the security protocol.

Also Read: Ways to Improve Information Sharing Within Organizations and Enhance Cybersecurity

Flag Inbound Messages from External Networks

Notifying the users about the email’s origin is a common strategy many businesses use to alert the user if the message is from an external source, even though it is not an effective strategy because the users still might click on the links despite the warning message. Organizations need to train the employees on the criticality of this flag and how to treat these emails to minimize BEC attacks.

Develop a Layered Security Defense Mechanism

Business email compromises are not sophisticated from a technical perspective. Most BEC attacks initiate spear phishing or spoofing of an internal email account. Enterprises can stay secure from such attacks by implementing tools like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and virtual private networks (VPNs) in their cybersecurity tech stack.

One another efficient way to mitigate the risks and threats of BEC is by leveraging encryption to validate emails and enable users to transfer data securely. Email encryption software encrypts the data before it gets transferred to the network. Malicious actors will need a public key to decrypt the data on the email. This approach will help businesses to be resilient against sophisticated BEC threats and risks.

Business email compromise can have negative and long-lasting effects on organizations. These strategies, as mentioned earlier, will help the security teams to strengthen their security posture to identify and mitigate BEC attacks during their infancy.

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