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CORVID

Going phishing? Five emails you don’t want in your inbox

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Phishing attacks are the most common form of cyber attack. Why? The simplicity of email gives cyber criminals an easy route in, allowing them to reach users directly with no defensive barriers, to mislead, harvest credentials and spread malicious elements.

All organisations think it won’t happen to them, but phishing isn’t a trap that only ensnares the gullible or those unacquainted with technology. Far from it. Gone are the days of poorly-worded, patently obvious attempts at scamming users out of their hard-earned cash. Some of today’s most sophisticated phishing attacks are almost indistinguishable from legitimate business communications – they’re well-written, thoroughly researched and establish a thread of communication with the victim before attempting to steal their credentials or bank balance.

Email is the single biggest attack vector used by adversaries who employ a plethora of advanced social engineering techniques to achieve their goal. Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services at CORVID, describes five common types of social engineering attack that no employee – from CISO to HR assistant – wants to see in their inbox…

1. Payment diversion fraud

Cyber criminals often masquerade as a supplier, requesting invoices are paid to alternative bank details. They can also pretend to be an employee, asking the HR department to pay their salary into a different account. Payment diversion fraud targets both businesses and individuals and the results can understandably be devastating.

There’s little point requesting someone to make a bank transfer or change payment details who isn’t authorised to do so – threat actors target finance and HR teams, who would expect to process payments and deal with changes to personal account details, so are more likely to comply with the fraudulent request.

2. CEO fraud

Impersonating a VIP – often the CEO – is big business for adversaries, knowing the recipient will often action the request straightaway. Threat actors research their executive target thoroughly to make sure their spoofed email is as convincing as possible, so it stands more chance of succeeding. They prey on users’ implicit trust of their seniors to coerce them into providing commercially sensitive information, personal information, or bank account details.

These deceitful requests often convey a sense of urgency, and imply the interaction can only be carried out via email – the victim therefore has no time to question the validity of the request, and is unable to call the CEO to confirm if it’s genuine.

3. Whaling

The opposite of CEO fraud, whaling targets senior executives rather than impersonating them. These targets are often the decision-makers in a business who have the authority to give the go-ahead on financial transactions and business decisions, without further levels of approval. These phishing attacks are thoroughly researched, containing personalised information about the company or individual, and are written in the company’s tone, adopting fluent business terminology that’s well-known to the VIP target.

4. Spear phishing

Perhaps the most widespread form of email-based cyber attack, spear phishing targets individuals and specific companies with links to credential harvesting sites or requests for confidential information, such as bank details and personal data. Attackers study their victim’s online presence to include specific information which adds credibility to their request, such as purporting to be from a streaming service the victim is subscribed to, or a supplier that is known to the target company.

5. Sextortion

Not all phishing attacks are subtle. A form of cyber blackmail, sextortion is when cyber criminals email their target claiming to have evidence of them committing X-rated acts or offences, and demanding payment to stop the criminals from sharing the evidence with their victim’s family or employer.

Attackers count on their victim being too embarrassed to tell anyone about the email (although they haven’t done anything wrong), because it’s a taboo subject most wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with others. They often make the email sound like they’re doing their victim a favour in keeping the details to themselves. The victim may decide to pay up to stop embarrassing details about their private lives being made public, regardless of whether they’re true or not. Payments are usually demanded in Bitcoin so the transaction is untraceable, meaning the adversary cannot be identified.

But if the victim knows they’re innocent, why do these attacks still work? It’s all about credibility – attackers harvest email addresses and passwords from previous cyber attacks, which are available on the internet, and include them in their email to add credibility. If an attacker emails you claiming to know one of your passwords and includes it for proof, you’re more likely to believe the rest of the email is genuine.

Conclusion

These common types of social engineering attack cannot be ignored by any organisation – these threats are very real and won’t disappear anytime soon. Email security and threat protection can be transformed by the use of multiple sophisticated detection engines and threat intelligence sources; employees shouldn’t have to carry the weight of identifying these threats, essentially plugging the gaps in flawed cyber security strategies. Organisations need to treat email as the serious security risk that it is and begin to put appropriate measures in place.

Fraud detection and content checking in real time automatically highlight phishing and social engineering techniques, which removes the burden from users and instead leaves technology to do its job. Furthermore, technology enables potentially concerning emails – such as those attempting to harvest credentials, mislead users or spread malicious elements – to be automatically flagged, meaning employees can make quick, informed and confident decisions as to whether the email should be trusted.

With such sophisticated technology available and a growing threat landscape that shows no sign of slowing, it’s time for organisations to make a change and adequately protect themselves from incoming attacks.

Does your MSSP add value? Unsure? Switch

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

It goes without saying that employing a MSSP should make managing your cyber security easier. But that’s not always the case.

Ask yourself these five questions to determine whether your MSSP is actually adding the value it claims to be adding.

If you aren’t confident, take the first step towards working with a reputable partner who will add the value your business deserves.

Click here to find out more.

Four questions you need to answer after a cyber attack

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Corvid

Cyber attacks are inevitable, but it’s how you deal with them that can make or break your business. Have you got all the answers, and do you fully understand their implications? Can you be sure the attack won’t happen again?

There are four key questions you need to be able to answer following a cyber security breach – if any one answer is missing, you won’t have the full picture, leaving your business vulnerable to future attacks.

Click here to discover this and more advice from Corvid.

How to manage, detect and respond to a data breach

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Can you be 100% confident that your business has not been compromised?

How would you know if the attacker has not used malware or a virus that would be picked up by the perimeter defences?

Even when a compromise is identified, many companies aren’t sure what the next steps should be.

It is the speed with which a breach is detected, and the effectiveness with which it is remediated, that will provide the most value.

Learn how to manage, detect and respond to a data breach in Corvid’s latest blog:

https://www.corvid.co.uk/blog/how-to-manage-detect-respond-to-a-data-breach

Is email security training a waste of your time?

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If users are the ones being tricked, train users and they won’t get tricked. Easy! Except it doesn’t quite work like that.

Can user training ever hope to keep pace with the constantly evolving threat landscape?

And who decided user training was the right solution in the first place?

Click here to read the latest advice from Corvid.

Are trusted employees your biggest threat?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Trusted employees have access to company-sensitive information, assets and intellectual property, and permission to make financial transactions – often without requiring any further approval.

Attackers target these privileged, trusted people – impersonating suppliers, regulators and colleagues – and try to encourage them to do something they have permission to do, but shouldn’t, like diverting payments to a different account.

As far as they’re aware, they’re not doing anything wrong…

Find out how to combat this threat at: https://www.corvid.co.uk/blog/are-employees-your-biggest-threat

Save £35k by deleting emails from your CEO

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You work in finance. You get an email from your CEO addressing you by your first name, apologising for the late Friday email, but requesting you make an urgent payment to a regular supplier, with account details helpfully provided in the email. You’d pay it, right?

CEO fraud is an increasingly common type of phishing attack, where a threat actor impersonates a senior executive, and attempts to coerce an employee into transferring funds or personal information to the attacker’s account.

The average cost of this attack has risen to £35,000, but how do they keep getting away with it? Check out the latest advice from Corvid:

https://www.corvid.co.uk/blog/save-yourself-35k-delete-ceo-emails

Could your most trusted employee be your biggest threat?

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95% of cyber security breaches are due to human error, which in reality means it could be any user, at any time. The best bit? They probably won’t even know they’re doing something wrong, but they have inadvertently just become an unintentional insider threat. As Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services, CORVID, explains, organisations need to stop playing the blame game and pointing fingers at users when the system is compromised and instead ensure they have the right technology in place to take back control of their security defences.

Unintentional insider threats

A person becomes an unintentional insider threat when they unwittingly allow a cyber attacker to achieve their goal – whether that’s a breach of systems or information, or diverting payments to a criminal’s account. This can be through negligence or lack of knowledge, but can also be a result of just doing an everyday job.

Unintentional insider threats are particularly dangerous because the traditional methods of identifying insider threats don’t work – they don’t try to hide emails or files, because as far as they’re aware, they’re not doing anything wrong. If an attacker presents themselves as a legitimate person with the right credentials to request a change, the unsuspecting employee will probably respond exactly as the attacker was hoping.

Trusted employees have access to company-sensitive information, assets, and intellectual property, and permission to make financial transactions – often without requiring any further approval. Threat actors target these privileged, trusted people – impersonating suppliers, regulators, and known colleagues – and try to encourage them to do something they have permission to do, but shouldn’t.

Removing reliance on users

Email allows threat actors to communicate with users with almost no defensive barriers between them. Even the most diligent employee gets distracted, rushed, or slightly too tired, which is all it takes for a malicious email to achieve its objective – whether that’s clicking a link, opening an attachment, or trusting the email’s source enough to reply. Employees don’t expect to be attacked in a safe office environment but threat actors prey on this perceived safety to catch them off guard and socially engineer them into doing something they shouldn’t.

Many people think they know what a spam email looks like, but 97% of people are unable to identify a sophisticated phishing email. This is hardly surprising when considering there are, comparatively, so few highly-convincing fake emails; because they aren’t seen every day, employees aren’t always looking out for them. Then there are some methods of impersonation that organisations can’t realistically be expected to detect – for example, spotting the difference between a 1, l, and I (1, L, and i, respectively). Attackers know that employees aren’t meticulously scanning every email for tiny details like this, so they take advantage. If an organisation’s email security currently relies on users correctly identifying malicious emails 100% of the time, quite simply, their defences are going to succumb to attack.

Preventing the unintended

Research shows that 90% of organisations feel vulnerable to insider attacks, so now is the time for change. Monitoring normal access and behaviour patterns can give early warning signs of potential intentionally malicious activity, but the same can’t be said for unintentional insiderthreats. The attacker’s request could be comfortably within the scope of an employee’s daily duties.

The information available to users is often insufficient for them to determine whether an email is legitimate. As such, they should be suspicious and challenge requests, especially if they’re unexpected or urgent. Checks should also be put in place for a second pair of eyes to confirm certain requests before any action is taken, for example, changing payment details or making unscheduled wire transfers. If the request is for a financial transaction or asks for sensitive or personal information, phone the person who made the request (or better still, speak to them face-to-face) to confirm it’s genuine.

There is only so much humans can do. By having technology in place that alerts users to potentially malicious content and enables them to make an informed decision about an email’s nature and legitimacy before acting on it, organisations can take back control of their security defences instead of playing the blame game and pointing fingers at users when the system is compromised.