Business Email Compromise
(BEC) Attacks

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impersonation and email spoofing

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is an exploit in which an attacker obtains access to a business email account and imitates the owner's identity, in order to defraud the company, its employees, customers, or partners. 

What is Business Email Compromise?

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Business Email Compromise attacks are one of the biggest threats to every industry. BEC schemes cost an estimated $1.77 billion in 2019, and that number is only projected to skyrocket in the coming years. Whether you're in the commercial, government, and non-profit sector, you are at risk of BEC attacks.

 

BEC attackers use low-tech financial fraud that targets companies' sensitive data. They do not leverage malicious URLs or malware attachments. Therefore their attacks easily bypass signature-based prevention mechanisms used by Secure Email Gateways. And other legacy BEC safeguards — such as DMARC — are only effective against a small subset of phishing threats.

Breaking Down a Business Email Compromise Attack

A BEC attack can be broken into four major components:

Pretext

 

Internal Employee

Brand

External Partner/Vendor

 

 

Approach

 

Impersonation

Spoofing
Lookalike Domains
Display name

Compromised Account
Employee
Partner/Vendor/Brand

Delivery

 

Attachment

URL

Payload-less

 

 

Target

 

Employee Inbox

 

 

How Does Business Email Comrpromise Work

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A BEC attacker leverages social engineering tactics — typically accompanied by email spoofing or email compromise via phishing attacks or keystroke logging — to obtain employee credentials and access sensitive information.

A BEC attacker leverages social engineering tactics — typically accompanied by email spoofing or email compromise via phishing attacks or keystroke logging — to obtain employee credentials and access sensitive information.

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While BEC attacks can involve many different vectors, they often start when an attacker sends an email to an employee with authorization to send wire transfer payments, requesting a change in business payment from the impersonated address of a supervisor, CEO, or trusted vendor.

While BEC attacks can involve many different vectors, they often start when an attacker sends an email to an employee with authorization to send wire transfer payments, requesting a change in business payment from the impersonated address of a supervisor, CEO, or trusted vendor.

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Since the request comes from a seemingly trusted source, an employee will comply with the request. They don't realize that this request has given the attacker the upper hand and compromised their organization's safety.

Since the request comes from a seemingly trusted source, an employee will comply with the request. They don't realize that this request has given the attacker the upper hand and compromised their organization's safety.

BEC attacks can devastate your reputation and your bottom line. From 2016-2019 the FBI averaged that these attacks cost victims upwards of $26 billion. While 100% prevention isn't possible, profiling tools that analyze user relationships and inspect content can help you avoid the full spectrum of BEC challenges.

Types of BEC Attacks

There are many different types of BEC attacks. Since these scams do not always leverage traditional attack vectors like attachments or malicious links, they may evade identification safeguards.

Knowing what types of BEC attacks exist can help you from becoming a victim.

CEO fraud

CEO Fraud

CEO fraud attacks involve impersonations of the CEO or other C-Suite executives. The attacker uses fraudulent credentials to direct employees in financial roles to transfer money to specific accounts.

Account Takeover

Account takeover uses a trusted employee or executive's email account to solicit vendors for invoice payments with new bank account information. Then these invoice payments are deposited into criminal bank accounts.
Account takeover
Credential-theft

Credential Theft

Credential theft attacks are often the catalyst to account takeover attacks. These attacks involve stealing a victim's proof of identity using phishing tools like fake login-pages or keystroke loggers. Once an attacker gains access to a victim's account privileges there is an open back door. They can sell those credentials on the dark web or use them to inflict massive financial and reputational damage to your organization.

Invoice Fraud

Invoice attacks involve impersonation of an external partner/vendor, internal employee, or brand to deliver a fraudulent invoice request. Often the attacker requests fund transfers that unsuspecting employees deposited into criminal bank accounts. These requests don't contain malware, so they go undetected by SEGs.
Invoice attacks are costly, and they account for some of the most significant financial losses in BEC schemes.
Invoice-fraud

Common Business Email Compromise Methods & Tactics

Attackers utilize many different vectors to invade your network. Two of the most frequent are email impersonation and email spoofing.

Email Sender Impersonation

Email impersonation uses lookalike credentials of a specific person or entity to impersonate a known sender. Because lookalike credentials are visually similar to a targeted user, targeted brand, or targeted domain, many people cannot spot the discrepancy.


Email spoofing involves an attacker sending a message from -- or as a representative of - an authenticated domain. These attacks may appear to come from legitimate addresses, but with slight variations that cloak the attacker. There are different types of email spoofing including lookalike/cousin domain, and exact domain.

Email Spoofing

How To Stop Business Email Compromise Attacks

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Email is an essential tool for any modern business. Preventing business email compromise attacks is a problem for all businesses. In the face of increasingly sophisticated email attacks, many organizations are looking for solutions for stopping BEC attacks. And many are struggling to find a truly comprehensive solution.

IRONSCALES comprehensive SaaS platform gives you an edge against all attackers with an inside out approach to email security. The IRONSCALES platform protects your organization from BEC attacks by analyzing all email communications and creating unique fingerprint profiles for each user. By cross-checking and verifying all incoming messages, IRONSCALES gives you confidence in a sender's identity while protecting your assets — all in real-time.

Combat Ransomware with IRONSCALES

The IRONSCALES platform leverages advanced malware and URL protection, computer vision and neural network technology to detect and respond to ransomware in real-time.

Unlike traditional ransomware and malware threat protection software, IRONSCALES offers native API integration with no MX record changes required, real-time and continuous inspection of suspicious URLs and attachments in the inbox, and best-of-breed anti malware and AV engines. Our advanced email ransomware protection tools keep your employees and your company safe. Request a demo of IRONSCALES to see how you can keep your company safe from ransomware.

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