What Are BEC Attacks? All You Need to Know About Them in 2024

 Tuesday 19 December, 2023
BEC Attacks Exposed: Prevent Attacks Now

Business email compromise (BEC) is already the most financially devastating threat to organizations, with the FBI IC3 identifying $51 billion in exposed losses over the last ten years. As technology advances, so do the techniques employed by malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities within business communication channels. BEC attacks have swiftly emerged as a critical concern for businesses across the spectrum, leveraging these vulnerabilities and often evading conventional security measures.

In this article, we’ll take you through the intricate world of BEC attacks, shedding light on what they entail and emphasizing the criticality of early detection.

What are BEC attacks?

BEC attacks are a form of phishing attack that involves a criminal attempting to deceive an organization's senior executive or budget holder. The aim is to trick them into transferring funds or revealing sensitive information. These attacks typically start with careful surveillance, where the attacker gathers information about the target, including their contacts, responsibilities and communication patterns.

Once armed with this knowledge, the attacker creates convincing emails or messages that appear to come from a trusted source, such as a colleague, supplier or even a high-ranking executive within the organization. These messages often emphasize urgent action, creating a sense of pressure and prompting the victim to act without thorough verification.

How to prevent an attack?

Preventing BEC attacks today requires a multifaceted approach involving education, technological solutions and proactive measures. Here are key strategies to help prevent BEC attacks:

  • Employee training and awareness:

Education is the first line of defense against BEC attacks. Conduct regular training sessions to educate employees about the various forms of phishing, including BEC attacks. Teach them how to recognize suspicious emails, verify requests for sensitive information or financial transactions and stress the importance of promptly reporting any suspicious activity.

  • Phishing simulation:

Regular phishing simulation exercises can help gauge the effectiveness of employee training and awareness programs. By mimicking real-world phishing attempts, these simulations provide valuable insights into the organization's vulnerability and enable tailored training to address specific weak points.

  • Layered security measures:

Implement a comprehensive and layered security approach that includes email filtering, advanced threat detection and multifactor authentication (MFA). Email filters can flag suspicious emails before they reach the inbox, and advanced threat detection can identify and block phishing attempts that bypass standard filters.

  • Encourage verification and cross-verification:

Establish a culture within the organization that encourages employees to verify any unusual requests, especially those related to financial transactions or sensitive data. Emphasize the importance of cross-verifying requests through multiple channels, such as phone calls or in-person confirmations.

To learn more about Layered Security (also known as defense in depth), read this article and discover how to approach cybersecurity by implementing multiple layers of protection to safeguard your digital assets.

Key instances of BEC attacks and the critical need to detect them

Understanding real-life examples of BEC attacks is crucial for appreciating their sophistication and the potential damage they can inflict on businesses. Here are a few examples of BEC attacks, their significance and how to prevent them:

CEO fraud

In a CEO fraud scenario, the attacker impersonates the CEO or another high-ranking executive and sends an urgent email to an employee in the finance department, instructing them to transfer a significant amount of funds to a specified account. These emails often appear genuine, using language and style consistent with the executive they are impersonating.

How to prevent it?

Detecting such attempts by verifying the email sender, scrutinizing the request and establishing a communication protocol is vital to prevent financial losses and maintain the organization's reputation. Rapid identification allows for appropriate action, potentially blocking the transfer and investigating the incident.

Invoice fraud

In this scheme, the attacker poses as a known supplier or vendor and sends a fake invoice or payment request to an employee in charge of payments. The invoice typically includes altered banking details, diverting funds to the attacker's account

How to prevent it?

Spotting discrepancies in invoices by looking into unusual billing amounts, misspellings, unfamiliar sender details and irregular payment instructions may mitigate financial losses and maintain the integrity of business transactions. Timely intervention can prevent erroneous payments and alert the organization to cyberthreats.

Attorney impersonation

The attacker poses as a legal representative or attorney and sends urgent emails to an employee, demanding immediate action or information related to legal matters. These emails may pressure recipients to reveal sensitive information or make unauthorized financial transactions.

How to prevent it?

Recognizing and validating the authenticity of communications from legal representatives is crucial to protecting sensitive legal and financial information. Failure to do so could lead to severe legal and financial consequences for the organization.

Safeguarding your organization from BEC Attacks

BEC attacks present a significant threat to organizations by exploiting human vulnerabilities and bypassing traditional security measures. As discussed above, SMBs and MSPs must prioritize preventive measures, such as employee training, phishing simulation, layered security measures and more.

Additionally, adopting technologies that help combat such attacks is essential to detect and mitigate these threats promptly. Since Pulseway is uniquely qualified to protect your business against any phishing attack, it provides easily deployable solutions enabling you to defend, detect and protect at every stage of an attack.

So, stay vigilant, educate your teams and invest in robust security solutions today to protect your organization from the ever-evolving landscape of cyberthreats.

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