6,600 organisations witnessed over 1 lakh email compromise attacks in 2020: Report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on August 07, 2020

Barracuda Networks, a leading provider of cloud-enabled security solutions, identified that 6,170 malicious accounts that use Gmail, AOL, and other email services have been responsible for over 100,000 Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks in 2020 on nearly 6,600 organizations.

The firm reported that malicious hackers register email accounts with legitimate services to use them to conduct impersonation and business email compromise attacks.

They carefully craft these messages and sometimes use the email accounts for only a short span to avoid detection or being suspended by email services providers.

However, some hackers may temporarily abandon an account after initial attacks and then re-use them after a long gap.

Each of these email address used for BEC attacks is defined as a malicious account and provides insight into how hackers email accounts in their schemes.

Barracuda further mentioned in its report that business email compromise by nature is a highly targeted attack. After the initial research period, hackers impersonate an employee or trusted partner in an email attack.

The first email is usually used to establish contact and trust. Hackers always expect a reply to their BEC attacks. Therefore, these attacks are usually attempted at a very low volume and are highly personalized to ensure a higher chance of a reply, it noted.

Barracuda researchers found that in many cases hackers were using the same email addresses to attack different organizations. The number of organizations attacked ranged from one to a one mass scale attack that impacted nearly 256 organizations overall.

Speaking on the threat highlight, Murali Urs, Country Manager-India, Barracuda Networks, commented “We began observing a shift in the attack tactics deployed by cybercriminals since the beginning of the global pandemic. It is primarily because of the switch to a completely remote working model in such a short space of time that brought with it a myriad of security challenges for businesses, particularly with many employees using personal devices.”

He added: “Malicious accounts were responsible for 45 per cent of all BEC attacks detected since April 1, 2020. These repeat offenders created multiple attacks, targeting multiple organizations from the same email accounts.”

Murali further mentioned that the preferred choice of email service for these malicious accounts is Gmail as it is accessible, free, easy to register. It also has a high enough reputation to pass through email security filters. However, most of the time hackers don’t use their bad emails for a long period. In fact, the researchers saw 29 per cent of malicious account accounts were used only for a period of 24 hours.

But some hackers were using the same email address by changing the display names for their impersonation attempts,” Murali further added.


Published on August 07, 2020

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