Yesterday the FBI warned the world that Business Email Scams (BEC) victims are growing, making companies losing money. The law enforcement highlights that frauds use to start with crooks spoofing communications from high management and executives and deceive them to authorize international wire transfers.
The numbers provided by the FBI are alarming, from October 2013 to August 2015, $750 million were lost by companies due to Business Email Scams, nearly 7,000 companies just in the USA felt victim of the scams.
Back in January of this year, the FBI had released some statistics about Business Email Scams, the law enforcement reported that between Oct. 1, 2013 and Dec. 1, 2014, 1198 companies had lost $179 million with the “CEO fraud”, aka business e-mail compromise (BEC). This is worrying because from January until now the number increase around 270 percent, the overall losses jumped from $179 million in January up to the current $750 million.
“The scam has been reported in all 50 states and in 79 countries,” “Fraudulent transfers have been reported going to 72 countries; however, the majority of the transfers are going to Asian banks located within China and Hong Kong.” States the alert issued by the FBI,
How the Business Email Scams works
Normally all starts with a phishing email specifically crafted to a company executive, or employees of the targeted company. The emails look like as a legitimate message sent from a look-alike domain, let’s say that an original company is called Timetolife.com, the crook will send an email to the victim from Timetoolife.com.
Since it is a crafted email, the crooks pay attention to the details so this type of emails will not set off spam traps, because it’s a targeted email. Crooks compose the emails by using the information on the target company available on open sources on the Internet (i.e. social media, press releases, and news).
The FBI highlights that the Business Email Scams is very effective and a profitable practice for cyber criminals.
“On the surface, business email compromise scams may seem unsophisticated relative to moneymaking schemes that involve complex malicious software, such as Dyre and ZeuS. But in many ways, the BEC attack is more versatile and adept at sidestepping basic security strategies used by banks and their customers to minimize risks associated with account takeovers. In traditional phishing scams, the attackers interact with the victim’s bank directly, but in the BEC scam the crooks trick the victim into doing that for them.” wrote the popular investigator Brian Krebs on the Business Email Scams attacks.
The following image shows differences between a normal malware-based attack (i.e. like Zeus) and the BEC scheme:
Using again the example of Timetolife.com as the original company and Timetoolife.com as the fake company, the crook, will forge the sender’s email address displayed to the recipient, for the victim to see that the email was sent from Timetolife.com, but when the victim replies, the reply is going to Timetoolife.com.
Some known victims
Already in August a tech company called Ubiquiti Networks disclosed in their financial report that they lost $46.7 million because of Business Email Scams.
In February, The Scoular Co lost $17.2 million, just because an employee received an e-mail with the order to transfer money to a bank in China
The list of successfully Business Email Scams is very long.
Advises to prevent Business Email Scams
About the Author Elsio Pinto
Edited by Pierluigi Paganini
(Security Affairs – cybercrime, Business Email Scams)