By now, most employees know misspellings, fishy links, and questionable attachments are the telltale signs of an email scam. While this is notable evidence of successful employee education, scams and cyberattacks have only gained sophistication. Even the most savvy employees can fall for a clever email spoofing campaign.
According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost per compromised record has steadily increased. In 2020, the average breach costs organizations $3.92 million. Since spoofing is often the first step in a costly breach, your business has a major incentive to prevent email spoofing attacks before they occur. In this piece, we’ll define what email spoofing is and offer expert tips for overall preventing email spoofing.
Email spoofing is a technique scammers use to make fraudulent emails appear as if they came from a known entity. By impersonating someone familiar, scammers use phishing attacks to obtain sensitive information such as company credit card numbers, payroll data, and even login credentials to corporate networks. Many cybercrimes start with email (and website) spoofing, which allows attackers to gain access and trust, then grow into more sophisticated and costly attacks.
In spite of the few email filtering options available, spoofing morphed into a major global security issue by the 2000s. In response, the European Union released a Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications in 2002, making it illegal to send unsolicited communications without the prior consent of the recipient.
The US followed suit in 2004, but these regulations overwhelmingly failed at completely eliminating spoofing and other types of email-based spam. Even with today’s advanced cybersecurity tools, 3.1 billion domain spoofing emails are sent per day, and over 90% of cyberattacks start with an email message.
So what does a spoofed email look like? Let’s review the following example:
For one, the sender is impersonating "Medical Suppliers," using Display Name Spoofing and Domain Name Impersonation.
Alex, who is the head of Denver Dialysis Center procurement, might receive this email thinking that he forgot to pay an important invoice.
The email looks like it was sent by his contact at Medical Suppliers, Inc., Michelle, and it references the correct invoice number. But upon further examination, there are a few clues that point to Display Name Spoofing and Domain Impersonation.
The body of the email has odd language, too. $1,000 fee seems like an arbitrary late payment, and there aren't any details around how late fees are structured going forward.
Moreover, the email contains a link that will likely direct Alex to a fake portal where he'll be prompted to input his credentials and provide payment information.
And even if he doesn't click on the phony link, any replies he sends (which could contain sensitive procurement-related information) will go to the suspicious email address in the
Reply-to field: "firstname.lastname@example.org."
There are several common methods typically discussed on how to prevent impersonation attacks.
Let’s look at their benefits and limitations more closely:
Email is now completely enmeshed with work, making strategies to prevent email spoofing a baseline requirement in any organization.
Commonly used email spoofing protection strategies like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC have severe limitations, even when employed simultaneously. In fact, as more companies adopt those tactics, attackers launch more domain impersonation attacks that SPDF, DKIM, and DMARC cannot protect against.
Modern prevention against email spoofing requires a blended approach using artificial intelligence and human insights.
Wading through thousands of emails a day and picking up on new abnormalities is an impossible task for humans alone, but not for computers.
Learn more about the effectiveness of using human and AI collaboration to combat modern phishing threats.
AI systems flag possible attacks
so that humans can review them for accuracy.
Admins then provide feedback to the algorithm to make it
stronger, creating an even more robust layer of protection.
AI-powered anomaly detection tools analyze both user behavior patterns and email metadata, helping the algorithms and platform better identify and respond to new spoofing techniques.
To react to spoofed emails quickly and effectively, organizations must layer advanced mailbox anomaly detection on top of SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and training.
Learn more about advanced mailbox-level anomaly detection.
IRONSCALES is a pioneer in the cybersecurity space, detecting email spoofing and other advanced threats better than any other platform on the market.
The IRONSCALES platform includes mailbox-level anomaly detection, anti-phishing tools, and protection against business email compromise (BEC). And with intelligent automation, IRONSCALES can stop phishing emails before they even hit your employees’ inboxes.
Not only that, IRONSCALES is easy to use and deploy, allowing your security administrators to help your employees stay safer together.
Take the first step towards a more holistic, comprehensive approach to your security by requesting a free IRONSCALES demo today.