Why Email Phishing is the Top Cyber Threat

MS Outlook and OneDrive can’t protect your users from an email cyberattack through phishing, and MimeCast is too expensive, so what can you do? Learn about phishing and get a free email security test.

Why email is the biggest risk

Email is the major means of communication for nearly all businesses nowadays. It stores our internal discussions and, most importantly, our private communications with consumers and clients. In addition, it can store information pertaining to human resources as well as papers from other crucial business activities, such as our finance and legal departments. Email may be used to gain access to nearly every service we use, including banking, utilities, social media, and business-related platforms. A hijacked email account may potentially provide access to everything else.

Email is the perfect attack vector

The pervasive use of email enables cybercriminals to target nearly anybody, from anywhere, and provides them with a vast array of attack paths and delivery mechanisms. using URL links to send users to malicious websites carrying malware, or attack standard document formats such as Microsoft Excel, Word, and even PDFs. The prevalence of malware hosted on Dropbox, Google Docs, and Microsoft OneDrive is also increasing.

In addition, social engineering is used to trick individuals into divulging critical information. Cybercriminals frequently imitate organisations, capitalising on the reputation and trust between a company and its consumers. And smaller businesses are frequently exploited as a back door into larger organisations. With hackers exploiting their contacts to steal information and/or extort money from the businesses that are their ultimate target.

Therefore, email is the ideal “attack vector” from the standpoint of a cybercriminal. According to an FBI analysis, business email compromise and Email Account Compromise will cost $2.4 billion in 2021 alone.

Maximise your Email defences

Many organisations continue to rely largely on the “built-in” email security capabilities of Microsoft and Google, as well as the rudimentary restrictions provided by email clients. Unfortunately, these systems frequently place the onus on the end-user to maintain up-to-date security rules and configurations, leaving overworked staff to attempt to identify and prevent assaults.

This is extremely challenging to maintain without a well-funded IT infrastructure, a luxury that many organisations cannot afford. IT personnel are frequently overworked, juggling various operational tasks in addition to maintaining an organization’s online presence; consequently, security is frequently overlooked. In many instances, security tools are never deployed to their fullest potential.

Defending the organisation from phishing scams requires constant re-education of the workforce. Even today, the vulnerabilities of short passwords remain ignored by enough users that danger lurks. Now, a cybercriminal doesn’t need brute force to gain network access, they can rely on the target to volunteer sensitive and personal data.

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Mind the [security] gap

The fact of the matter is that this gap can be closed. A qualified email security vendor with a comprehensive awareness of the threat landscape can guarantee that you always have the most current security capabilities in place. Proactively improving and innovating as the environment changes is one of the greatest advantages of engaging with a best-of-breed email security supplier, whose business is solely focused on the precise area you are utilising the technology to safeguard email.

However, no single system is 100 percent successful, and the level of security required by different businesses might vary significantly. This can depend on a variety of variables, including the nature of your firm, the information you possess, the significance of your brand’s reputation, and any regulatory obligations in your industry.

For the most effective defence against email-based cyberattacks it is insufficient to deploy an advanced email security solution in isolation. This must be supplemented with thorough training of your organization’s users to emphasize the possible threats posed by hackers, raise awareness of their methods, and ultimately decrease the chance of a data breach.

Recognising email compromise attacks

Email security technologies are available in a variety of forms, but all of these solutions strive to reduce the volume of spam emails and prevent the delivery of hazardous material, links, files, and documents to users’ inboxes.

Numerous of these technologies search for the most typical characteristics of a malicious email, such as banned IP addresses or a questionable domain. The emails are quarantined and then kept away from the receiver.
However, what transpires when the email comes from a reliable source? From a respectable but compromised business that you may have even whitelisted and whose organisation and employees you know and trust?

SMTP (or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) was not created with security in mind. Without the proper protection, email is now vulnerable to potential data theft via a simple yet successful attack with someone else exploiting your domain to attack others.

Even someone with a limited knowledge of coding can easily assume the identity of a user in your organisation. One can readily find a step-by-step instruction to initiate a Business Email Compromise attack with a quick Google search.

The intended recipient could be stephen.reynolds@libraesva.co.uk, but the fraudsters have purchased a domain with an identical name. You may not notice any difference at first sight, but the domain is active and totally under the control of cybercriminals.

Without the appropriate safeguards in place, the bogus email seeking payment that the attacker sends to the finance department of Stephen’s organisation would be delivered unchecked.

It is crucial to conduct regular phishing simulations and testing on your company users in order to monitor and understand their behaviour and enhance their capacity to identify and report malicious emails and phishing efforts. Users who fail these test campaigns can receive additional training to avert the success of a real cyber-attack. The most effective way to modify behaviour and convey simply digestible information is through short movies.

The average business user is not a certified security expert, so you should implement security measures to stop and prevent the majority of unwanted or dangerous emails from reaching your users. The IT personnel will only have to deal with a tiny percentage of unclear instances on a continuing basis.

Glossary of email security threats

Spam
Unwanted content delivered to enterprise users should be quarantined, despite the fact that spam is typically viewed as more of an irritation than a security risk.

Malware
Email attachments can spread Trojans, Worms, Viruses, and other dangerous file types and file extensions. They may also be hosted on malicious or corrupted genuine websites that give a URL link. Some varieties of malware have code buried in documents that executes when opened or clicked.

The sophistication of deceptive evasive threats, which employ obfuscation and evasion strategies to conceal the attackers’ true intentions, is growing. These techniques are designed to evade detection by preventative measures and several detection methods, such as the classic sandbox, which is susceptible to this type of attack.

Ransomware
Ransomware encrypts files on a computer and then demands a payment from victims to regain access. The most common methods for spreading ransomware are through tainted websites that host the software and through phishing efforts that offer users a link via email. The practise of embedding a link in a pdf file that takes viewers to a malicious website is gaining popularity.

The proliferation of ransomware and developments in encryption technologies have rendered decryption nearly impossible without the encryption key. Task groups and “big game hunters” have placed a special emphasis on larger organisations, but they’ll also target smaller enterprises in order to launch attacks from legal businesses while also ransacking you.

Abuse of legitimate software
The use of legitimate software such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Docs, Dropbox, and other storage and web-based services to store malware and give the URL to the user is a developing security trend. The widespread use of these programmes makes it difficult to sanction them, and the domains on which they are hosted may be blindly trusted, as they are genuine and have not been identified as malicious by the platforms on which they are hosted.

Phishing
There are a variety of phishing email formats that deceive users into divulging vital information. Email phishing, spear-phishing, and smishing are a few examples. Throughout the attack life cycle, these threats use a mixture of phone, email, and social engineering.

They distribute malware via links or by impersonating as a legitimate service and diverting the visitor to websites designed to appear identical. These bogus landing pages are intended to collect login credentials and credit card information, which are then used to abuse or blackmail the user for money or data.

Research conducted by DBXUK.com indicates that every 19 seconds, one UK business is attacked via phishing email.

Spear phishing
Spear phishing attacks have been around since the dawn of email. Spear phishing attacks are targeted phishing attacks aimed at a specific person, such as the CEO or finance director, or other employees who likely have access to sensitive information such as inside knowledge on business processes, customer contracts, etc. Spear phishing is delivered by sending unsolicited emails with malicious links and attachments, and it relies on deception to gain maximum results for its perpetrators.

Smishing
Vishing and smishing are the latest (and perhaps most disturbing) waves of malevolent phishing schemes that crooks use to steal personal information from unsuspecting victims. vishing is used when criminals impersonate a legitimate source in an effort to gain the trust of their prey, whereas smishing involves sending text messages from a mobile phone number.

Spyware
Spyware is used by cybercriminals to gain information about the user’s activities on their computer, including keystrokes, mouse movement and even internet activity. The malware can be downloaded from various websites or from pirated versions of payed-for applications. Spyware is often distributed as spam emails containing infected attachments that attempt to trick users into running malicious code or clicking on links that in turn install spyware onto their machines. The worst thing about spyware is it’s hidden in the background and usually very hard to detect.

Business Email Intrusion
Combining tactics such as the spoofing and impersonation of business email breach tricks victims into divulging important information. This technique takes use of a person’s desire to help others and the relationship between the target and the impersonated individual to carry out cybercriminal operations.

Business email compromise (BEC)
Business email compromise is an email scam that involves gaining access to business emails. It’s a form of electronic identity theft, and BEC refers to all types of email attacks that do not have payloads, such as URLs or attachments. Although there are numerous types of BEC attacks, there are essentially two main mechanisms through which attackers penetrate organizations utilizing BEC techniques: 1) phishing attacks and 2) social engineering.

Whaling
Whaling is a phishing attack that targets high-profile targets within an organization such as senior executives. The whaling email will include some very convincing information on the whaling victim, including terrible photos, emails and even phone numbers to be notified of the same. There are many others like whaling but this one stands out among all because it is more personalized than usual cybercrimes targeting important people in organizations which can prove to be dangerous due to its hidden intentions.

Social Engineering
The social engineering attack can be considered an intelligent method of phishing which using people’s information. The attacker uses tricks and unethical behaviour to get the victim into their trap by simply displaying an attractive picture or sending a tempting message through email.

The best defence against phishing

The best defence against email phishing is a strong offence! At Advanced UK, we have partnered with the global star of email security, and we are offering a totally free email security test.

The test is completely private, non-intrusive, and it requires no setup. You simply add in the email address that you’d like to run the test on, with the option to add a Whaling contact. This allows you to simulate whether you can successfully stop a business email compromise attack.

The Whaling individual’s email address you supply here will not receive any notifications or alerts, but we will try to deliver an email that looks like it came from that person to the primary contact.

Contact us today to schedule your test!

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