Email has become an integral part of our daily lives, serving various purposes, including business transactions. With the increasing reliance on digital technology, the threat of cybercrime has also grown. Among the significant cyber threats faced by businesses today, Business Email Compromise (BEC) stands out.
Understanding Business Email Compromise (BEC).
Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of scam where criminals employ email fraud to target victims, including both businesses and individuals. These scammers specifically target those who conduct online transfer payments. They often masquerade as high-level executives or business partners and send deceptive emails to employees, customers, or vendors, requesting them to make payments or transfer funds. The financial damage inflicted by these scams can be severe, affecting both businesses and individuals, while also tarnishing their reputations.
The Mechanics of BEC Attacks.
BEC attacks are typically sophisticated and well-crafted, making them challenging to identify. The attackers commence by researching the targeted organisation and its employees, gathering information about its operations, suppliers, customers, and business partners. Much of this information is readily available online through platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and the company’s website. Armed with sufficient knowledge, the attacker proceeds to compose a convincing email designed to appear as if it originates from a high-level executive or a trusted business partner.
The email usually urges the recipient to make a payment or transfer funds, often emphasising the urgency and confidentiality of the matter at hand. For instance, it might involve a new business opportunity, a vendor payment, or a foreign tax payment. The email often includes a sense of urgency, pressuring the recipient to act swiftly. To make the email appear more legitimate, the attacker might employ social engineering tactics such as impersonating a trusted contact or creating a fake website resembling the company’s official site.
If the recipient falls victim to the scam and proceeds to make the requested payment, the attacker will abscond with the funds, leaving the victim with substantial financial losses.
Why is it crucial to pay close attention to BEC attacks?
The answer lies in the alarming rise of such incidents. An Accenture report in 2021 warned that South Africa had the third-highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, at a cost to the economy of R2.2 billion a year.
In accordance with the African Cyber Threat Assessment Report by Interpol, South Africa witnessed the identification of nearly 220 million email threats in the year 2021. Subsequently, this number has persistently increased, leading to annual losses amounting to billions for the nation.
Fighting Back Against Business Email Compromise
Preventing BEC scams can be challenging, but there are measures that businesses and individuals can take to reduce the risk of falling victim to such attacks.
Educating Employees: Organisations should prioritise educating their employees about the risks associated with BEC scams. This includes providing training on identifying and avoiding such fraudulent schemes. Employees need to be aware of common tactics employed by scammers, such as urgent requests, social engineering techniques, and fake websites. Additionally, training should cover email account security practices, including regular monitoring of the sent folder for suspicious messages, using strong passwords with a minimum of 12 characters, periodic password changes, secure storage of passwords, and promptly reporting suspected phishing emails to the IT department.
Enabling Email Authentication: Organisations should implement email authentication protocols such as Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). These protocols help verify the authenticity of the sender’s email address and reduce the risk of email spoofing. Furthermore, they prevent legitimate emails from being flagged as spam or ending up in junk mail folders.
Deploying Payment Verification Processes: Establish payment verification processes, including measures like two-factor authentication and confirmation from multiple parties. These processes ensure that all wire transfer requests are legitimate. It is advisable to have multiple individuals verify any financial payment request, minimising the chances of falling victim to BEC scams.
Checking Financial Transactions: Implement robust systems for monitoring and verifying financial transactions. This can include practices such as two-factor authentication, requiring multiple levels of approval for high-value transactions, and regularly reconciling financial records. By implementing these measures, businesses can detect and prevent unauthorised transactions, protecting themselves from BEC attacks.
Establishing a Response Plan: Organisations must have a well-defined response plan in place to effectively deal with BEC incidents. This plan should include clear procedures for reporting the incident, freezing transfers, and promptly notifying law enforcement authorities. By having a structured response plan, businesses can minimise the impact of BEC attacks and take immediate action to mitigate potential financial losses.
Utilising Anti-phishing Software: Both businesses and individuals can benefit from using anti-phishing software to detect and block fraudulent emails. With the advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, these tools have become increasingly effective in identifying and preventing phishing attempts. As the use of AI in phishing technology continues to evolve, businesses need to remain vigilant and leverage these tools to protect themselves and their email communications.
Looking for Email Security Solutions?
By implementing a combination of employee education, email authentication protocols, payment verification processes, transaction monitoring, response plans, and anti-phishing software, businesses can significantly reduce their vulnerability to BEC attacks. Staying informed and proactive in the face of evolving cyber threats is crucial to protecting valuable assets and maintaining the trust of customers, partners, and stakeholders.
Securing your business emails is of paramount importance. In a matter of moments, funds can be lost irreversibly. Don’t leave your organisation vulnerable to BEC attacks. Contact us today to explore our comprehensive email security solutions tailored to safeguard your business from the ever-growing threat of cybercrime.
If you are seeking assistance in safeguarding your business and securing your email communications to ensure continued success, reach out to us! Our team of experts is ready to provide you with top-notch advice and guide you towards optimal IT solutions.
You can contact us at email@example.com & (011) 784 9167 or find us at 117 11th Street, Parkmore, Sandton, Johannesburg.