Editor’s note: Dmitry reviews business email compromise dangers and outlines critical steps to minimize the risk of BEC scams. If you want to implement strong defenses against this common cyber threat, contact ScienceSoft for our cybersecurity services.
Business email compromise (BEC) is a form of cybercrime where scammers use fraudulent emails to trick a company’s employees into taking certain actions to the scammer’s benefit. In BEC scams, a fraudster typically pretends to be a trusted person, such as a company’s executive or a business partner, and asks the victim to make a payment or share confidential company information.
BEC attacks take advantage of the corporate world’s reliance on email as a primary means of communication and employees' trust in their email correspondence. Perpetrators may employ diverse social engineering techniques, but BEC fraudsters tend to rely on urgency and appeal to authority to manipulate their victims effectively.
Why BEC Scams Are Dangerous: Key Risks
- Financial losses. BEC scams can cause direct financial damage, often leading to multimillion-dollar losses. Scammers trick victims into making fraudulent wire transfers, sharing payment credentials, or paying fake invoices.
- Data breaches. BEC scams often aim to intercept sensitive information. This can lead to unauthorized access to confidential records, customer data, and business plans. The stolen data can be used for various malicious purposes, from identity theft to ransom demands and business espionage.
- Business disruption. Successful BEC scams can disrupt small- and large-scale business operations. By gaining access to the email accounts of high-level executives, scammers can send fraudulent instructions to employees or partners, causing anything from confusion and delays to financial and reputational losses.
- Legal and regulatory consequences. Depending on the nature and impact of the BEC, companies may face legal and regulatory penalties, particularly if personal data or other sensitive information is compromised.
- Reputational damage. Falling victim to a BEC attack can damage a company’s reputation. News of the compromise can undermine customers' and partners' trust in the company's ability to protect their sensitive data and conduct secure transactions.
Business Email Compromise Prevention
- Validate email requests. Before responding to email requests, especially those involving financial transactions or sensitive information, contact the sender via a different communication channel. This ensures the authenticity of the request and reduces the risk of falling for BEC scams.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA). Enable MFA for email accounts and other business-critical software systems. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional verification beyond just a password (e.g., a fingerprint or a unique login code), making it harder for cybercriminals to overtake corporate accounts.
- Train employees. Make sure all employees complete comprehensive cybersecurity training. Educate them about the BEC risks and the common scamming. Teach them to recognize suspicious emails, phishing attempts, and social engineering tactics. Encourage them to report any suspicious activity immediately.
- Enforce robust password policies. The passwords for corporate email accounts and other systems must be strong, regularly updated, and securely stored. To avoid the risk of employee negligence, implement organization-wide password policies that may include mandatory password resets at least every two months and the use of complex passwords with a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters,
- Enable email protection. Implement reliable email authentication protocols, such as Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). These protocols help prevent forged or spoofed emails and reduce the risk of BEC attacks.
- Maintain strong security measures. Utilize robust cybersecurity tools like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and anti-malware software to protect against email-based threats. Ensure efficient security logging and monitoring to promptly identify any suspicious activities.
- Update software regularly. To prevent business email compromise, keep all software updated to the latest patches and versions. Timely updates help protect against known vulnerabilities and security loopholes. Promptly uninstall any unused software: hackers may exploit the vulnerabilities in outdated systems to penetrate your IT infrastructure.
Take Proactive Measures to Protect Your Data and Reputation from BEC Scams
By implementing robust email protection mechanisms, comprehensive employee training, and other best security practices, businesses can minimize the risk of falling victim to BEC scams. If you need help securing email communications and combating business email compromise, don’t hesitate to contact ScienceSoft’s cybersecurity team.
Can your employees be easily manipulated into breaking security rules? We imitate real-life hackers’ techniques to evaluate your staff’s resilience to malicious emails and calls.