What Are These Types of Cyber Attacks?
Businesses face constantly evolving cyber threats and the unfortunate reality is that cyber criminals know that your employees are your weakest link. When it comes to phishing attacks, two highly insidious methods of email attack stand out: ‘social engineering’ and ‘Identity impersonation’ email attacks. Both forms of attack represent a significant threat to businesses across the globe, and attackers are exploiting these human vulnerabilities rather than technological flaws within your organisation. But what are these types of attack methods?
Social engineering is a deceptive practice that manipulates individuals into divulging confidential information. Unlike typical hacking, social engineering capitalises on psychological manipulation, persuading employees to unwittingly share sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, or proprietary data. This is becoming more prevalent with the use of Generative AI in these types of attacks which makes them much harder to spot.
Identity Impersonation Email Attacks
This specific type of social engineering is particularly treacherous. Identity impersonation email attacks involve an attacker masquerading as a trusted entity—such as a boss, coworker, or reputable company—and persuading the victim to perform actions like transferring money or providing access credentials. This is achieved through a variety of ways;
Display Name Impersonation: Makes the sender’s name appear to be legitimate, however, the email they are sending from is not legitimate.
Domain Spoofing: This is a method used to make the domain (anything after the @ in an email) appear to be from a trusted source by replacing letters with numbers or characters to make it appear correct.
Email Hijacking: This is the most dangerous method and the hardest to spot. This method is used by attackers who have already gained access to a legitimate mailbox. By doing this they can read and send emails as the user, in many cases an attacker could spend weeks or months inside a user's mailbox, learning regular communications, communication styles and much more. What these attackers can then do is place Mailbox Rules on their victim’s mailbox to filter emails away from their eyes and respond to that user in a fraudulent manner.
How Are People Targeted?
These attacks are highly tailored and rely on a deep understanding of human nature, behaviour, and psychology. Just a few of these types of attack include;
Unlike broad phishing campaigns, spear phishing targets specific individuals or organisations. The attacker researches the victim extensively to create personalised and convincing messages.
In pretexting, the attacker fabricates a scenario or pretext to obtain information. This might include pretending to be an IT support staff member who needs a password to perform maintenance, a boss asking for a money transfer to a supplier, or a client or supplier sending a file or invoice for review.
This approach leverages the victim's curiosity or greed. Baiting offers something for the user to interact with, this could be to download a file such as an invoice or a quote request document for a potentially large contract. Once this is done it allows the attacker to either download malicious software to the victim machine or guide them to a website to capture their sign in information and potentially use this to continue their attack on more victims.
Much like Baiting, another method is threatening emails and extortion. This could be targeting somebody by claiming to have sensitive information or photos of the user in an attempt to extort money from them.
What are the Dangers to Businesses
The impacts of social engineering and identity impersonation email attacks on businesses can be catastrophic:
1. Financial Losses: Unauthorised money transfers can lead to substantial financial damage.
2. Reputational Harm: The loss of customer trust can significantly harm a brand's reputation.
3. Legal Consequences: Failure to protect sensitive information could result in legal penalties, especially under regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
4. Intellectual Property Theft: These attacks can expose proprietary information or sensitive data to malicious threat actors which could in turn be sold to competitors, on the dark web or used to extort the business.
Protecting Your Business
Given the human-centric nature of these threats, businesses must promote a robust cyber security culture:
1. Education & Training: Regular training can help employees recognise and report suspicious activity.
2. Multi-Factor Authentication: This additional layer of security minimises the risk of unauthorised access to accounts, even if credentials are compromised.
3. Comprehensive Policies: Clear and enforced security policies ensure that employees know their responsibilities in maintaining security.
4. Advanced Email Security Solutions: Advanced Email Security uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to spot many common forms of Identity Impersonation and Social Engineering Attacks.
How can TwentyFour protect your business from these attacks?
Businesses must maintain constant vigilance against the complex and ever-evolving social engineering and identity impersonation threats. Understanding the methods that attackers use and the dangers that businesses face is crucial. Education for employees about these attacks and how to spot them is key, but the real safeguard lies in a comprehensive security solution designed to monitor and protect your business from these types of attacks.
Our Advanced Email Security solution uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to monitor for Identity Impersonation and Social Engineering Attacks such as these, protecting your business from these emerging threats.
To find out more about Advanced Email Security and how it can protect your business, Contact Us to find out more.