Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security

10/4/2018
09:35 AM
Scott Ferguson
Scott Ferguson
News Analysis-Security Now
50%
50%

Attackers Can Compromise Corporate Email Accounts for $150

With corporate email account hacking tools available on criminal forums for as little as $150, a report from Digital Shadows finds that this has led to an increase in Business Email Compromise and Email Account Compromise attacks.

Corporate email accounts are increasingly coming under attack with two specific kinds of schemes -- Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) -- on the rise thanks to a proliferation of cheap hacking services.

For as little as a $150 investment, cybercriminals can purchase account hacking services on various forums and use those tools to start a lucrative BEC or EAC scheme that typically targets a company's financial or accounting department.

This look at the growing threat BEC and EAC schemes pose to enterprises is part of a study released by Digital Shadows on Thursday, October 4, dubbed "Pst! Cybercriminals on the Outlook for Your Emails."

Digital Shadows researchers looked at nearly 5 billion credentials that had been exposed through more than 280,000 different data breaches. Within that pool of data, they found 33,568 email addresses of finance departments exposed through third-party compromises.

Additionally, over 80% of these emails had their passwords exposed, which could lead to various account takeovers.

Email attacks such as BEC and EAC are not new, however, recent reports show that they are increasing as attackers look for different ways to make money off stolen credentials and compromised systems.

In May, the FBI released a cybersecurity report that found BEC scams had cost businesses and consumers in the US over $675 million in losses in 2017 alone. The bureau received over 15,000 complaints about BEC attacks during those 12 months. (See FBI: Ransomware Contributed to $1.4B in Losses in 2017.)

Other similar scams, such as account takeover (ATO) attacks, are also on the increase. (See Account Takeover Attacks Are on the Rise.)

Rafael Amado, strategy and research analyst at Digital Shadows, noted that the FBI estimated that all these types of email attacks have increased by 136% between December 2016 and May of this year. It's not clear why they have increased, but the proliferation of cheap hacking tools has helped.

"It's not clear why these attacks are more prominent right now, but it would seem that the wide availability of tools and individuals offering phishing and email compromise services online lowers the barriers to entry for this activity," Amado wrote in an email to Security Now. "With more and more organizations digitizing their businesses, you have the knock-on effect of more targets being created, more employees whose credentials may be exposed, and more email archives that are being backed up on misconfigured file stores."

Another reason for the increase is that many of these schemes don't require a lot of technical know-how.

Amado notes that BEC schemes usually follow two specific routes: The first is the attacker using social engineering techniques and impersonation to email a victim and ask them to wire funds or send across sensitive data. The second involves the attacker manages to compromise the victim's email account -- often through phishing schemes -- and then alters mailbox rules before sending fraudulent messages to colleagues requesting wire transfers.

Both techniques allow cybercriminals to steal money quickly without a lot of upfront investment.

If buying tools is not possible, Digital Shadows also found some 12 million email archive files -- .eml, .msg, .pst, .ost, .mbox -- that were publicly available through misconfigured rsync, FTP, SMB, Amazon S3 buckets and NAS drives.

As part of the research, Digital Shadows did contact a Russian-speaking attacker who was looking to buy email addresses associated with the financial departments of specific companies. However, Amado noted in his email that these schemes had been observed in over 150 countries, including the US, although China and Hong Kong have seen more attacks.

To help counter these threats, Amado recommended increasing anti-spam and anti-malware tools cut down on scam emails. Also, enterprises should do more to train employees, including executives, to be aware of these threats.

"You need to build BEC into your contingency plans, just as you have built ransomware and destructive malware into your incident response/business continuity planning," Amado wrote. "For BEC, work with your wire transfer application vendors to build in multiple person authorizations to approve significant wire transfers and prevent successful BEC attempts against your organization."

Related posts:

— Scott Ferguson is the managing editor of Light Reading and the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Cloud Security Threats for 2021
Or Azarzar, CTO & Co-Founder of Lightspin,  12/3/2020
Why Vulnerable Code Is Shipped Knowingly
Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, Veracode,  11/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Todays Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Todays Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27772
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-04
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in coders/bmp.c. An attacker who submits a crafted file that is processed by ImageMagick could trigger undefined behavior in the form of values outside the range of type `unsigned int`. This would most likely lead to an impact to application availability, but could po...
CVE-2020-27773
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-04
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in MagickCore/gem-private.h. An attacker who submits a crafted file that is processed by ImageMagick could trigger undefined behavior in the form of values outside the range of type `unsigned char` or division by zero. This would most likely lead to an impact to appli...
CVE-2020-28950
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-04
The installer of Kaspersky Anti-Ransomware Tool (KART) prior to KART 4.0 Patch C was vulnerable to a DLL hijacking attack that allowed an attacker to elevate privileges during installation process.
CVE-2020-27774
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-04
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in MagickCore/statistic.c. An attacker who submits a crafted file that is processed by ImageMagick could trigger undefined behavior in the form of a too large shift for 64-bit type `ssize_t`. This would most likely lead to an impact to application availability, but co...
CVE-2020-27775
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-04
A flaw was found in ImageMagick in MagickCore/quantum.h. An attacker who submits a crafted file that is processed by ImageMagick could trigger undefined behavior in the form of values outside the range of type unsigned char. This would most likely lead to an impact to application availability, but c...