Business Email Compromise
(BEC) Attacks

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What is Business Email Compromise?

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

Internal Employee
External Partner/Vendor
• Spoofing
• Look-alike Domains
• Display Name
Compromised Account
• Employee
• Partner/Vendor/Brand
Employee Inbox
Employee Inbox

How Does Business Email Compromise Work?

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.
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.
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 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.
CEO Fraud
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.
Learn More About Account Takeover>>
Account Takeover
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.
Credential Theft
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.
For example, the exact email address of
might be impersonated with the similar looking
Email Spoofing
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.
For example the exact email address of
might be spoofed with the lookalike/cousin domain
Or the attack could come from an exact domain spoof as
Learn More About Email Spoofing >>
How To Stop <br class="irn-hide-xl"> Business Email Compromise Attacks

How To Stop
Business Email Compromise Attacks

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.


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