3 Types of Complicated and Costly Email Threats That Organizations Should Watch Out For

It is estimated that $2.9 million is lost to cybercrime every single minute and that large companies are losing $25/minute on security breaches alone. These are shocking numbers, and it is likely that they will grow in the future. More and more companies are moving their businesses online, and more and more opportunities are created for people who are willing to break laws online. One the of cybercriminals’ favorite points of entrance is emails, and there are a few specific email threats that have been designed to jeopardize data security. Specifically, business data security. In this report, we want to highlight three major email scams that have been plaguing companies big and small, far and wide.

Phishing

You must already know what phishing is, considering how well researched and analyzed this phenomenon is. Phishing is a way for cybercriminals to trick people into giving up information or to expose them to links and files that might be malicious or that might open backdoors for more elaborate scams. Schemers can create messages that are supported by believable subject lines, signatures, logos, and layouts. Many recipients of phishing emails might interact with them without hesitation, which, of course, is a mistake.

Every time you find a new message in your inbox, you need to go through a checklist to gauge whether it is trustworthy enough to open. Does the subject line make sense? Are there any mistakes? Are you addressed using the information within your email address (e.g., if your address is billgates001@gmail.com, you might be addressed as billgates001)? Are you familiar with the sender? If you end up opening the message, you must pay attention to the message as well. Is someone requesting sensitive information? Does the message contain a link to a login page that is fake? What is the tone of the message? Is someone trying to intimidate you and make you take careless action? There are some commonly used subject lines that phishers use, but they could also be tailored, which is why you want to be careful every time.

Whaling

When it comes to email scams, whaling might take the cake of being the most sinister type of email scam. Also known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam or CEO Fraud, whaling is always personal and targeted. To put it in short, an attacker impersonates the CEO of the company or someone else in a high-ranking position. Of course, someone could impersonate Mark Zuckerberg and trick Facebook users into thinking that the CEO of the largest social media platform on planet Earth is contacting them, but, in this scenario, Zuckerberg’s name is most likely to be used to target Facebook’s employees.

Without a doubt, it might be hard or even impossible to hijack actual CEO accounts to send misleading emails that might contain malicious links, request sensitive information, request money transfers, etc. However, creating email addresses that appear to be identical to real addresses is easy. Schemers can also browse through the company’s social media profiles and use public information (e.g., email addresses that are shared via an official website) to make fictitious emails appear more legitimate. For example, around the end of the year holidays, schemers could try impersonating someone in the company that, allegedly, is organizing an event and asks for participants to sign up using personal data. Unfortunately, whaling attacks can seriously jeopardize business data security and data security in general.

Spoofing

Let’s say you are responsible for business contacts or recruitment within your company, and so you are used to receiving emails from unknown parties on a daily basis. This does not mean that you can be careless. You should pay attention to subject lines, sender’s addresses, and messages before taking any actions. Spoofing is very similar to whaling, except that instead of imitating leaders within the company, schemers are likely to imitate outsiders. Obviously, you cannot ignore every email sent by an unknown party if it is your job to accommodate strangers, but it is your responsibility to keep schemers out because you do not want to be the one responsible for major data security breaches.

Cybersecurity researchers agree that staying vigilant is the best medicine against spoofing. It is also advised that companies employ different instruments to protect their employees against spoofing attacks. They might want to employ spoof detection tools, appropriate encryption protocols, antivirus protection, VPNs, firewall, and packet filtering tools. And for spoofing-related email scams specifically, researchers advise utilizing email filters and authentication systems, as well as ignoring emails that are just too suspicious. A good rule of thumb is that if something makes you suspicious, you want to double-check with the sender (preferably using a different method of communication) or with someone responsible for cybersecurity.

How to ensure data security if it is threatened via email

Just like all major decisions within a company, data security protection must be decided by its leaders. The CEO must give instructions to those in lower ranks to take appropriate steps. For example, the IT department might be instructed to implement defenses against spoofing and phishing. The managers of different departments might be instructed to train employees on how to identify phishing emails and how to prevent successful data security breaches in the future.

Of course, if a data breach has occurred, it is also important to fix issues that might have been caused already. For example, it might be essential to change passwords to all systems in use as well as the passwords of all employee accounts if a phishing attack was used to exfiltrate login credentials. Making smart changes is easier said than done because it is not enough to change one password with another. Every password has to be unique and strong, and not all involved parties might be motivated enough to make appropriate changes. Therefore, if passwords need to be changed, we recommend implementing a trusted password management tool, Cyclonis Password Manager.

Hopefully, data security can be protected by implementing tools and adjusting settings, but keep in mind that schemers have various tactics to conduct phishing, whaling, and spoofing attacks. If you underestimate this risk, the next email you open carelessly could lead to big problems.

September 3, 2020

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