As we continue to bring awareness to these threats, new ones emerge almost daily. In the past three months, a cyber-espionage group known as Seedworm (aka MuddyWater) has used spear-phishing attacks to infect 131 individuals with the Powermuddy backdoor (a new variant of their Powermud backdoor). Once a system has been compromised, this malware runs a tool that steals passwords from a user’s browser and email, often leading to access to the victim’s email and social media accounts.
Protect Yourself from the Latest Threats
Over the years, I’ve posted many times about phishing, spear-phishing, and other threats, with a variety of suggestions for protecting yourself and your business from becoming the next victim. Throughout these posts (from oldest to newest), you’ll find lots of tips to avoid being tricked by these email-borne scams.
As the threat landscape continues to evolve, businesses of all sizes must maintain awareness of the latest email-borne threats and educate staff at all levels, from entry level to C-suite. After all, without the right tools and procedures in place, it only takes one misguided mouse click to damage a business’ reputation or send it into bankruptcy.
In part one of our three-part series on Business Email Compromise (BEC), I explained what a BEC attack is and provided examples and statistics. As you’ll recall from the examples discussed, businesses have suffered staggering losses to these attacks, and while users are becoming more aware of them, their own human nature dictates that these threats will continue. In fact, a recent report by Get Safe Online indicated that over a third (37%) of employees don’t know what to look for to identify common email scams. The report also stated that one in 20 email fraud victims were so ashamed that they hid their mistakes from their colleagues.
In part two, I discussed the following 4 steps cybercriminals take to conduct a BEC attack.
Identify the target victim
Exchange of information
Businesses can make Step 1 more difficult by carefully crafting and monitoring online content such as company websites, LinkedIn profiles and other publicly available information, but as long as employees can be influenced by excessive trust, intimidation, or simply lack of awareness, businesses will need to implement additional preventive measures to avoid potentially devastating losses. After all, once a credible target has been identified, the best defense is a well-informed workforce.
Top 10 Business Email Compromise Protection Tips
Train Users to recognize these Common Impersonation Tactics used by Cybercriminals
Domain Name Spoofing – Domain name spoofing involves either spoofing the sender’s “Mail From” to match the recipient’s domain in the message envelope, or using a legitimate domain in the “Mail From” value but using a spoofed “Reply-To” domain in the message header.
Here is an example that has been spoofed to look like it was sent from HSBC Bank:
A quick examination of the message headers reveals a return-path address that is not associated with the From address. A reply to this message would go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Display Name Spoofing – Most BEC attacks use this technique. With display name spoofing, the attacker will register a free email account that may contain the name of a company executive. The attacker would then configure the display name to match your CEO or some other executive, and then send phishing messages from this account. This technique works because recipients often only look at the display name and not the actual email address. In fact, many email clients (particularly on mobile devices) will only show the display name when viewing the message, making it easier to hide the sender’s real identity. Because the sender’s email address is not forged, messages using this spoofing technique are often more difficult to block than those using domain name spoofing, where the addition of three DNS records (DKIM, SPF and DMARC) have been shown to be more effective at blocking spoofed emails.
Here is an example showing a spoofed display name of HSBC Bank. To help users identify suspect emails, MDaemon Webmail has a handy security feature that displays the actual sender address as well as the display name.
Lookalike Domain Spoofing – Lookalike domain name spoofing involves registering fake domains that contain characters that look similar to others and sending phishing emails from them in an attempt to trick the recipient into thinking the message is from a legitimate domain. An example would be using an upper-case I in place of a lower-case L.
Compromised Email Account – Another common tactic is the use of legitimate email accounts that have been compromised through malware or social engineering to steal data or funds.
Secure your domain
Register domain names similar to yours to protect against lookalike domain spoofing.
Don’t over-share on social media
Be careful what you post on social media, especially job titles and responsibilities, corporate structure information, and out-of-office details.
Use SPF, DKIM and DMARC
Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) are anti-spoofing and email authentication techniques that use DNS records to validate the sender of an email. Make sure your domain has valid SPF, DKIM and DMARC records, and make sure your mail server/provider is analyzing all inbound email traffic using these tools. For more information, refer to this blog post.
Use two-factor authentication
With two-factor authentication, users must provide two forms of authentication – a password and another form of verification such as a unique verification code or a fingerprint. Two-factor authentication is discussed further in this blog post.
Use strong password policies
Use strong passwords and require regular password changes. Strong passwords must meet the following criteria:
Must meet a minimum length requirement.
Must contain both letters and numbers.
Must contain both upper and lower case letters.
May not contain the account mailbox or full name data.
Never use commonly guessed passwords such as Password1 or Letmein.
Don’t trust unknown sources
Never open emails, click on links, or download files from unknown senders. To help users verify the identity of a message sender, MDaemon Webmail displays the full email header in addition to the display name.
Establish strict processes for wire transfers
You may recall from my previous post that cybercriminals have been known to target all parties in a real estate transaction. If you receive a request to change the payment type or the original recipient’s financial information, be sure to verify the information through already-established channels of communication.
Before responding to wire transfer requests, verify the identity of approved vendors and the authenticity of their invoices. Confirm in person or by phone using previously known numbers. Don’t trust the phone number on the invoice.
Provide regular end-user training
User education must be reinforced on a regular basis for stronger awareness. Every employee who uses email should know how to recognize a spoofed email or a phishing attempt.
Run antivirus software often
Make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date and run it regularly.
While traditional security measures such as network defenses and email gateways can be effective at blocking most varieties of spam, the bottom line is that user awareness and education are critical to avoid falling victim to BEC attacks.
This week, we continue our series on Business Email Compromise. Click here to read Part 1, which includes an overview and various statistics on this growing threat.
It takes time and effort to launch a successful Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack. In a typical attack, several messages are exchanged in an attempt to convince the target to authorize large payments to the attacker’s bank account. From start to finish, the steps involved in a BEC attack consist of identifying a target, grooming, exchanging information, and finally, transfer of funds.
Let’s go over these four steps in detail.
Step 1 – Identify the Target Victim
The first step in a BEC attack may be the most time-consuming. During this step, a criminal organization researches the victim to develop an accurate profile of the company. Through publicly available information, attackers look for the names and positions of company executives, especially those on the finance team. They scour social media, online articles, and anything else that will provide specific details about the company and its employees. Scammers who are able to infiltrate a company’s network with malware may spend weeks or months monitoring information on the company’s vendors, billing and payment systems, and employee vacation schedules. They have also been known to monitor the executive’s writing style in order to craft a convincing email using a spoofed email address or lookalike domain claiming to come from the CEO.
Step 2 – Grooming
Armed with the information obtained in Step 1, the scammer moves on to Step 2. During this step, the scammer uses spear-phishing, phone calls or other social engineering tactics to target employees with access to company finances. The grooming phase often takes several days of back and forth communication in order to build up trust. During this phase, the scammer may impersonate the CEO or another company executive and use his or her authority to pressure the employee to act quickly.
Here is an example sent to one of our Finance executives in which the sender used display name spoofing to spoof the name of our CEO. Cybercriminals will often use a free email address (notice the comcast.net domain), which can be easy to miss if you’re using a mobile device or some other client that doesn’t display the full email header.
Step 3 – Exchange of Information
During step 3, the victim is convinced that he is conducting a legitimate business transaction, and is then provided with wire transfer instructions.
Step 4 – Payment
And finally, funds are transferred and deposited into a bank account controlled by the criminal organization.
What to Do if You Are a Victim
If you’ve suffered losses due to Business Email Compromise schemes, it is important to act quickly.
Contact your financial institution immediately.
Request your financial institution contact the institution that received the fraudulent funds.
Contact your local FBI office and report the incident.
This week, we begin a three-part series on the threats posed by Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks. In Part 1, we’ll explain what BEC is and discuss various types of BEC scams. In Part 2, we’ll explain how cybercriminals launch a BEC attack, and in Part 3, we’ll discuss best practices for avoiding these types of threats.
Email is the preferred communication method for businesses around the world. It’s also the preferred attack vector for cybercriminals due to its ease of use and low cost, and since the beginning days of email, spam techniques have continued to evolve into a variety of sophisticated threats.
One particularly menacing threat that is continuing to grow in popularity is Business Email Compromise (BEC).
BEC attacks (also known as whaling, spear-phishing or CEO fraud) use various deception tactics to impersonate a trusted contact. They employ a combination of research and social engineering techniques to impersonate business executives, real-estate firms, title companies, law firms, and even the FBI in an attempt to elicit transfers of large sums of money or the exchange of personally identifiable information (PII), which can be used in future BEC attacks and other types of cybercrime. Victims of BEC attacks are often tricked into believing they are carrying out a routine transaction, such as filling an order with a supplier, transferring funds for an executive, or sending sensitive data to an HR representative.
With the exception of those with spoofed sender addresses, many BEC attacks are sent from valid email addresses using credentials obtained through phishing, brute force attacks, or data obtained in a database breach like the one that hit Yahoo in 2013.
BEC attacks often contain no malware, malicious links, or suspicious code. As a result, in many cases they are able to bypass traditional security measures, which makes them especially dangerous.
Watch Out for These Common Scams
Some of the most common examples of Business Email Compromise include:
Real Estate Transactions: During a real estate transaction, criminals may impersonate sellers, realtors, title companies, or law firms to trick the home buyer into transferring funds into a fraudulent account.
Data and W-2 Theft: Criminals use a spoofed or compromised executive email account to send fraudulent requests for W-2 information or other personally identifiable information to HR staff or others within the business who maintain confidential employee records.
Supply Chain: Criminals send fraudulent wire transfer requests to redirect funds during a pending business deal, transaction, or invoice payment to an account controlled by organized crime groups.
Law Firms: Criminals discover information about pending litigation or trusts and impersonate a law firm’s client to change the recipient bank information to a fraudulent account.
Over 41,000 Victims and Growing
The statistics are staggering. In July, 2018, the FBI released a public service announcement indicating that victims lost over $12.5 billion to BEC attacks between October 2013 and May 2018. In the United States, BEC attacks claimed over 41,000 victims during this five year period at a total loss of over $2.9 billion. In 2017 alone, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 15,000 reports of BEC attacks with estimated losses of over $675 million.
Based on victim complaint data, BEC scams targeting the real estate industry are on the rise. From 2015 to 2017, there was over an 1100% rise in the number of victims of real estate BEC scams and an almost 2200% rise in financial losses. May 2018 had the highest number of real estate victims since 2015, and September 2017 reported the highest victim loss.
Recent High-Profile Incidents of BEC Scams
In 2013, Google and Facebook lost over $100 million in a scheme that impersonated a large Asian manufacturer.
In August, 2017, MacEwan University lost almost $12 million to a spear-phishing campaign that impersonated a construction and contracting company.
In June, 2017, a New York judge lost over $1M in Real Estate Scam that began as an email claiming to come from her real-estate lawyer.
Despite efforts to raise awareness of these scams, a recent Gartner Research report indicated that BEC attacks will continue to be persistent and evasive, leading to large financial fraud losses for businesses and data breaches for healthcare and government organizations.
Why are Business Email Compromise threats so dangerous?
Business Email Compromise attacks are designed to bypass standard security mechanisms such as spam filters and anti-virus software, and are dangerous for a variety of reasons.
They contain no malware. BEC attacks normally don’t contain malware. Instead, they use crafty social engineering to trick users into thinking they are legitimate.
They are able to bypass many spam filters. BEC scams are often well-crafted with no spelling or grammatical errors. As a result, they are often able to bypass many spam filters.
They are highly personalized. Scammers take their time researching the victim long before an attack is launched. They scour public websites, social media, and even the dark web to find specific information, including names and background information of company executives. Armed with this information and with knowledge of an executive’s writing style, their emails appear authentic.
What is being done to stop BEC attacks?
Recently, multiple countries launched a coordinated effort to dismantle international BEC schemes. This effort, known as Operation WireWire and involving the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Service, resulted in 74 arrests across multiple countries. Unfortunately, these attacks will continue as long as human nature can be exploited for personal gain. In fact, a recent report by Get Safe Online indicated that over a third (37%) of employees don’t know what to look for to identify common email scams. The report also stated that one in 20 email fraud victims were so ashamed that they hid their mistakes from their colleagues.
Businesses of all sizes must remain vigilant against these threats. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and knowing how BEC attacks are launched and how to identify and avoid them is key. We’ll discuss these topics in parts 2 and 3 of this series, so stay tuned!
It’s that time again. Our friends at MailStore have released their latest & greatest version of the MailStore archive server – version 11.2, with support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2019, plus continued support for all other email platforms, including MDaemon.
“But do I really NEED an archiving solution?”
In short, YES! With most businesses relying on email to send sensitive information to customers, partners, and suppliers, you need a backup solution for a variety of reasons, including protection against ransomware, accidental deletion, disaster recovery, e-discovery, and compliance to regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR.
While it may be tempting to hold off on upgrading to a new release, keep in mind that the threat landscape is constantly evolving, and security is more important than ever before. Upgrading to the latest version will help you stay protected against the latest threats.
Before the invention of email, mail that arrived in your physical mailbox often contained pamphlets, sales brochures, credit card offers, and product catalogs. Much of this waste was thrown away and ended up in a landfill somewhere. Today, the equivalent and often more annoying nuisance is spam. Spam comes in many forms, and has evolved from dubious product claims, miracle supplements, conspiracy theories, and offers of easy money to more malicious threats such as ransomware attacks and targeted spear-phishing.
While the amount of spam as a percentage of total email traffic has gone down recently, the severity of email-borne threats has increased.
So how can users protect themselves from becoming the next victim to these malicious threats? There are numerous spam fighting tools in MDaemon and other mail servers, but server-side tools are only half of the spam-fighting equation. The other half is user education. With this in mind, here are 10 things users can do to reduce the amount of spam they receive.
Unsubscribe – How often have you been asked by a store clerk for your email address or placed an order online? In either of these situations, chances are you may have ended up on a company’s mailing list. When you receive email from these companies, take the time to open the message and click on the Unsubscribe link. But first, make sure the email is in fact coming from a reputable company (Here’s how). If you’re not completely sure where the email came from, then report the message as spam instead of unsubscribing.
Create a secondary email account – While we’re on the topic of retailers having your email address, you might also consider having a second email address that’s used solely for the purpose of store records or placing orders. This allows you to keep solicitations from these vendors out of your primary inbox.
Keep your email address private – If your email address is visible on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, then it’s also visible to spammers. Spammers have tools that can easily detect visible email addresses and add them to their mailing lists. This is why it’s often recommended that, if you MUST use your email address on one of these sites, you mask it by changing its format. For example, type out “at” instead of using the “@” symbol. With the prevalence of Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks, it’s even more important for executives to be mindful of posting their email address or other personal information, as scammers will use this information to send out well-crafted spear-phishing emails.
Don’t reply to ANY spam or unsolicited marketing messages – Most spam messages use forged sender (return-path) addresses, so replying to a spam message will almost never result in the spammer getting your message. Replying to legitimate marketing messages tells the sender that your email address is valid, and thus, they may continue to send you spam.
Never click on links – Often, when you click on a link in a spam email, it specifically identifies you to the spammer as having received the message. Not only can clicking links in spam messages identify you to the spammer; you can also end up getting infected with malware.
Block Images – Even if you don’t click any links, an image opening in your email can alert spammers to a valid address. Spammers often try to be stealthy by inserting images that are only one pixel wide. If your mail client is configured to automatically open images, spammers can be alerted that your email address is valid. We recommend configuring your email client to automatically block images to reduce spam. You can always choose to view images in specific emails if you are sure the sender and content are legitimate.
Make your email address unique – Spammers often use common names to try to guess email addresses. If your email address is unique, it makes it harder for spammers to guess your email address.
Don’t fall for scams – If you receive an anonymous email from someone who appears to be in dire need, who promises you large sums of money for your small up-front investment, you may be witnessing the familiar Nigerian email scam, or one of many other variants. What are the odds that someone you’ve never met, who’s in a desperate situation, would contact you for help? Don’t fall for this scam.
Never forward email from someone you don’t know – I often see email messages with some type of public service announcement, petition, or other bit of advice, and often, there’s a request to forward the message to your friends. Don’t fall for this, as it’s a prime opportunity for spammers to harvest email addresses.
Blocking junk email is not just the job of the mail server administrator. A well-informed email user can mean the difference between spam that is manageable and spam that is out of control. These ten tips will help you reduce spam, and help prevent you from becoming a victim to phishing or malware.
As hurricane Florence threatens the east coast with high winds, heavy rainfall and flooding, businesses could potentially lose access to critical communication services. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana last year, we offered free temporary assistance for those without email services. For those affected by Florence, we are again here to help. We’re offering affected businesses free temporary email hosting using your existing domain or temporary email accounts on our hosted webmail platform.
Nature dictates that we human beings are prone to make mistakes from time to time. For example, if you attached a picture from your toddler’s birthday party in an email to your customer when you meant to attach your customer’s invoice, if you noticed an embarrassing typo after a message was sent, or if you got a little overzealous with your personal information that, after giving it a second thought, might be damaging to your career. Most of us have found ourselves in one or more of these situations at one time or another. That’s why it’s important that your email solution have a Message Recall feature. Message Recall gives you a “second chance” to correct an error or avoid a situation that could be embarrassing or damaging to your career.
MDaemon users have three ways to recall a message.
Using the Recall button in MDaemon Webmail.
Attaching a copy of the sent message to an email addressed to the MDaemon System account with RECALL as the message subject.
Sending a message to the MDaemon System account with RECALL plus the Message-ID as the message subject.
This quick video shows all three methods for recalling an email message in MDaemon Webmail
Let’s face it. We all make mistakes. At one time or another, most of us have gotten a little hasty with the Send button when composing an email, and sent it to the wrong Frank Thomas, accidentally CC’d the customer in an inter-office communication, or realized the email was probably not such a good idea in the first place. These examples can be quite embarrassing, but other mistakes can result in legal trouble for you or your company. For example, healthcare providers can violate HIPAA regulations by sending an email containing protected health information (PHI) to the wrong person. Penalties for these HIPAA violations can be steep, ranging from $50,000 to $1.5 million.
To avoid these situations, your email solution should have a feature that lets you delay delivery of a message. With MDaemon Webmail, message scheduling options are just a mouse click away.
“This is all great, but why would I want to delay delivery of an important email message?”
There are many reasons why one might want to defer delivery of an email message.
Delaying message delivery for an hour or even a few minutes gives you time to take a break from it and review it with a refreshed perspective – providing another opportunity to catch errors you might have missed before.
Some email conversations go back and forth too quickly, so you might respond before you have all the information or ask questions that are already answered in the next message. Deferred delivery allows you to slow the process down so you’re not having to play email tag.
Deferred delivery can help prevent you from sending an angry email response during heated discussions. Allowing yourself a little extra time to re-think your message or to cancel the message altogether can help prevent a great deal of workplace conflict.
For companies that operate globally, deferred delivery allows users to schedule messages for delivery during peak business hours in the recipient’s country, increasing the likelihood that it will be seen.
We demonstrate how to defer delivery of an email message in MDaemon Webmail in this week’s tutorial video.
While it’s true that hard drives are continuing to grow exponentially in storage capacity, many mail server administrators are still finding the need for greater control over disk space usage. An easy way to automate the process of limiting disk space used per-user while still retaining business-related data transmitted via email is to set message and disk space quotas while implement an archiving solution such as MailStore.
By default, MDaemon Remote Administration is accessed via port 1000 at your server’s host name, so if your host name is mail.example.com, then you’d enter http://mail.example.com:1000 to access Remote Administration. You can also use a secure URL – for example: https://mail.example.com. The URL you would use depends on the settings you have configured in MDaemon under Setup | Web & IM Services | Remote Administration | Web Server (and SSL & HTTPS).
I hope you find these tutorials useful. If you have questions or comments, please click on Leave a Comment (up there under the title of this post) and let us know!