What is Business Email Compromise in 2024

Business Email Compromise

Business Email Compromise (BEC) has emerged as one of the most financially damaging online crimes. The stakes are high, and the consequences can be devastating. According to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), 32% of small businesses experienced a breach or cyber attack in the last 12 months, and one of the most common techniques criminals use is to send fake emails that impersonate your organisation. BEC attacks are increasingly targeting businesses, with losses reaching hundreds of millions of pounds annually.

What is Business Email Compromise (BEC)?

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of cyberattack where criminals gain access to a business email account and imitate the owner’s identity to deceive employees, customers, or partners into transferring money or sensitive information. These attacks are sophisticated and can lead to significant financial losses and data breaches.

Industry-Specific Concerns

Real Estate Sector: The UK real estate sector has seen a significant increase in BEC attacks. According to the NCSC, these scams often involve criminals intercepting communications between buyers and solicitors, and altering bank details to redirect funds. In 2020 alone, it was estimated that £114 million was lost to payment diversion fraud in the real estate industry.

Healthcare Sector: Healthcare organizations are also prime targets for BEC attacks due to the high value of medical data. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reported that the healthcare sector experienced a notable increase in cyber incidents in 2021, with a significant portion attributed to email compromise.

Here are six common red flags of Business Email Compromise that you can’t afford to ignore:

  1. Urgent or Unusual Payment Requests

One of the most telling signs of a BEC attack is receiving urgent payment requests. These emails often impersonate high-level executives or trusted partners and create a sense of urgency to bypass normal verification processes.

Example: “We need to transfer £50,000 to our new supplier immediately. Ensure it’s done within the next hour.”

Tip: Always verify such requests through a secondary channel, such as a phone call to the requester, before taking any action.

  1. Changes in Vendor Payment Details

Another red flag is receiving emails that request changes to vendor payment information. Cybercriminals may pose as legitimate vendors and ask you to update the bank account details for future payments.

Example: “Please note our new bank details for the upcoming invoice payments. Update your records to avoid any payment delays.”

Tip: Confirm changes to payment information directly with your vendor using contact details already on file, not those provided in the email.

  1. Email Address Discrepancies

Subtle changes in email addresses are a common tactic used by attackers. They may create email addresses that closely resemble legitimate ones, often with minor alterations like additional characters or misspellings.

Example: An email from johndoe@company.com vs. johndoe@company.co (Notice the missing ‘m’).

Tip: Train employees to scrutinize email addresses carefully, especially when handling financial transactions.

  1. Unexpected Attachments or Links

Unsolicited emails with unexpected attachments or links are often used to deploy malware or phishing attempts. These emails may appear to come from a trusted source but often carry malicious payloads.

Example: “Please review the attached invoice for the recent transaction.”

Tip: Encourage staff to verify the authenticity of attachments and links before clicking, especially if they were not expecting the email.

  1. Suspicious Requests for Sensitive Information

Hackers may attempt to gather sensitive information by posing as company executives or IT personnel. They may request login credentials, financial data, or other confidential information.

Example: “Please send me the updated list of employee salaries and their banking details for the upcoming audit.”

Tip: Implement strict policies against sharing sensitive information via email and use secure communication channels.

  1. Unusual Language or Formatting

Emails that contain unusual language, grammatical errors, or formatting issues may be indicative of a BEC attack. Cybercriminals may not be familiar with the typical communication style of the person they are impersonating.

Example: “Urgent need funds transfer now. Is very important and time-sensitive.”

Tip: Encourage employees to report emails that seem out of character for the sender, especially if they involve financial transactions or sensitive data.

Protecting Your Business

Understanding these red flags is crucial, but taking action is even more important. Here are some steps to enhance your defences against BEC:

Employee Training: Regularly train employees on how to recognize and respond to phishing and BEC attempts.

Email Authentication: Implement email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to prevent email spoofing.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Use MFA to add an additional layer of security to email accounts.

Incident Response Plan: Develop and maintain an incident response plan to quickly address potential breaches.

At Xown Solutions Limited, we offer personalized cybersecurity solutions designed to protect your business from evolving threats like BEC. Our team of experts will work with you to assess your current security posture and develop a tailored strategy to enhance your defences.

Business Email Compromise is a serious threat that can have severe financial repercussions. By staying vigilant and educating your team on the common red flags, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Remember, in the world of cybersecurity, awareness and preparedness are your best defences.

Stay informed, stay secure, and don’t let your business become another statistic in the growing tide of BEC attacks.

Contact us today for a free consultation and discover how we can help secure your business against Business Email Compromise and other cyber threats.

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