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Phishing is a type of attack vector that involves a website or email that looks as if it is from a reputable organization but is actually created with the intent of gathering sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (also known as Card Data). Phishing attacks are common in the online world. When your company falls victim to a phishing attack, it can cause brand name harm and interfere with your search engine ranking or conversion rate. It should be a priority for marketers to protect against phishing attacks because they are a direct reflection of your company’s consistencies. Hence, as marketers, we need to proceed with extreme caution when it comes to phishing scams.

Phishing scams have been around for many years. Don’t worry if you didn’t hear about it before, it isn’t your fault. Some say that the cyber scam was born 10 years ago but phishing officially became a crime in 2004. As Phishing techniques continue to evolve, encountering a new phishing email can quickly become confusing, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if the message is legitimate or not. You can better protect yourself and your organization by being alert to these five common phishing techniques.

5 Common Phishing Terms You Need to Know

1) Email Phishing 

Phishing emails are usually sent out in bulk from a domain that mimics a legitimate one. A company might have the email address [email protected], but a phishing company might use [email protected] The goal is to fool you into clicking on a malicious link or sharing sensitive information by pretending to be a real company you do business with.  A fake domain often involves character substitution, like using ‘r’ and ‘n’ next to each other to create ‘rn’ instead of ‘m’.

Phishing attacks are constantly evolving and getting more and more undetectable with time. Threat actors are using social engineering tactics to spoof domains and send fraudulent emails from a legitimate domain, for malicious ends.

2) Spear Phishing 

The spear phishing attack is a new form of cyber attack that uses false information to gain access to accounts that have a higher level of security. Professional attackers have a goal of compromising a single victim, and in order to carry out this idea, they research the company’s social profile and the names and role of employees within that company. Unlike phishing, Spear phishing is a targeted campaign against one organization or individual. These campaigns are carefully constructed by threat actors with the sole purpose of targeting a specific person(s) to gain access into an organization.

3) Whaling

Whaling is a highly targeted technique that can compromise the emails of higher-level associates. The objective, which is similar to other phishing methods, is to trick employees into clicking on a malicious link. One of the most devastating email attacks to pass through corporate networks is the whaling scam. These attempts at personal gain using powers of persuasion to lower victims’ resistance, tricking them into handing over company funds.Whaling is also known as CEO fraud, as attackers often impersonate people in authoritarian positions such as the CEO of a company.

4) Business Email Compromise 

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a form of cyber crime which can be extremely costly to businesses. This type of cyber attack uses email fraud to influence organizational domains into partaking on fraudulent activity resulting in the compromise and theft of sensitive data. Examples of BEC can include invoice scams, domain spoofing and other forms of impersonation attacks. Each year an average organization can lose up to $70 million dollars to BEC scams. In a typical attack, fraudsters target specific employee roles within an organization by sending a series of fraudulent emails that claim to be from a senior colleague, customer or business partner. They may instruct recipients to make payments or release confidential data.

5) Angler Phishing 

Many corporations have thousands of customers and receive hundreds of complaints daily. Through social media, companies are able to escape the confines of their limitations and reach out to their customers. This enables a corporation to be flexible and adjust to the demands of their customers. Angler phishing is the art of reaching out to disgruntled customers over social media and pretending to be part of a company.The angler phishing scam is a simple ploy used to trick casual social media users into thinking that a company is trying to remedy their problems, when in reality, the person on the other end is taking advantage of them.

How to Protect Your Organization from Phishing and Email Fraud

Your email service provider may come with integrated security packages as a part of their service. These however act as spam filters that offer protection against inbound phishing attempts. However, when an email is being sent by scammers using your domain name to recipient inboxes, like in case of BEC, whaling and other forms of impersonation attacks listed above, they won’t serve the purpose. This is why you need to avail of email authentication solutions like DMARC, immediately and shift to a policy of enforcement.

  • DMARC authenticates your emails by aligning them against SPF and DKIM authentication standards.
  • It specifies to receiving servers how they should respond to emails failing authentication checks.
  • DMARC aggregate (RUA) reports provide you with enhanced visibility into your email ecosystem and authentication results, and helps you monitor your domains easily.
  • DMARC forensic (RUF) reports give you in-depth analysis of your DMARC failure results, helping you respond to impersonation attacks faster.

How Can PowerDMARC Help Your Brand?

PowerDMARC is more than just your DMARC service provider, it is a multi-tenant SaaS platform that provides a wide range of authentication solutions and DMARC MSSP programs. We make email authentication easy and accessible for every organization, from small businesses to multinational enterprises.

  • We help you move from p=none to p=reject in no time, so as to protect your brand from impersonation attacks, domain spoofing and phishing.
  • We help you easily configure DMARC reporting for your with comprehensive charts and tables and RUA report views in 6 different formats for ease of use and amplified visibility
  • We cared about your privacy, so you can encrypt your DMARC RUF reports with your private key
  • We help you generate scheduled PDF reports on your authentication results
  • We provide dynamic SPF flattening solution like PowerSPF so that you never exceed the 10 DNS lookup limit
  • We help you make TLS encryption mandatory in SMTP, with MTA-STS to protect your domain from pervasive monitoring attacks
  • We help you make your brand visually identifiable in your recipient inboxes with BIMI

Sign up with PowerDMARC today to get your free DMARC analyzer tool trial, and shift from a policy of monitoring to enforcement to provide your domain maximum protection against BEC, phishing and spoofing attacks.

Let’s talk about spoofing for a minute. When you hear words like ‘phishing’, ‘business email compromise’ or ‘cybercrime’, what’s the first that pops into your head? Most people would think about something on the lines of email security, and chances are, you did, too. And that’s absolutely right: each of the terms I just mentioned are forms of cyberattack, where a criminal uses social engineering and other techniques to gain access to sensitive information and money. Obviously that’s bad, and organizations should do everything they can to protect themselves against it.

But there’s another side to this, one that some organizations simply don’t consider, and it’s one that’s equally important to them. Phishing doesn’t just put you at a higher risk of losing data and money, but your brand stands an equally large chance of losing out, too. In fact, that chance is as high as 63%: that’s how many consumers are likely to stop shopping a brand after just a single unsatisfactory experience.

How Do Email Phishing Attacks Harm Your Brand?

Understanding how phishing can compromise your organization’s systems is fairly straightforward. But the long-term effects of a single cyberattack? Not so much.

Think about it this way. In most cases, a user checking their email is likely going to click on an email from a person or brand they know and trust. If the email looks realistic enough, they wouldn’t even notice the difference between one that’s fake and one that’s not. The email might even have a link leading to a page that looks exactly like your organization’s login portal, where they type in their username and password.

Later on, once they hear that their credit card details and address have been leaked to the public, there’s nowhere to turn to but your organization. After all, it was ‘your email’ that caused the disaster, your lack of security. When your own customers totally lose faith in your brand and its credibility, it can cause huge problems for the optics of your brand. You’re not just the company that got hacked, you’re the company that allowed their data to be stolen through an email you sent.

It’s not hard to see how this could seriously hurt your bottom line in the long run, especially when new, potential customers are turned off by the prospect of being another victim of your emails. Cybercriminals take the trust and loyalty that your customers have in your brand, and actively use it against you. And that’s what makes Business Email Compromise (BEC) so much more than a technical security issue.

What Are Some of the Worst-Hit Industries?

Pharmaceutical companies are some of the most frequently targeted businesses for phishing and cyberattacks. According to a study of Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies, in just the last 3 months of 2018, each company faced on average 71 email fraud attacks. That’s because drug companies hold valuable intellectual property on new chemicals and pharmaceutical products. If an attacker can steal this information, they can sell them on the black market for a hefty profit.

Construction and real estate companies aren’t too far behind, either. Financial service companies and financial institutions in particular face the constant threat of having sensitive data or large sums of money stolen from them through carefully planned Business as well as Vendor Email Compromise (VEC) attacks. 

All these industries benefit greatly from customers trusting their brands, and their relationship with the brands directly influences their business with the companies. If a consumer were to feel like that company wasn’t capable of keeping their data, money or other assets safe, it would be detrimental to the brand, and sometimes, irreparably so.

Learn more about email security for your specific industry.

How Can You Save Your Brand?

Marketing is all about building your brand image into something that audiences won’t just remember, but associate with quality and reliability. And the first step towards that is by securing your domain.

Cybercriminals spoof your organization’s domain and impersonate your brand, so when they send an email to an unsuspecting user, it will appear like it’s coming from you. Rather than expecting users to identify which emails are real and which ones aren’t (which very often is almost impossible, particularly for the layman), you can instead prevent those emails from entering users’ inboxes entirely.

DMARC is an email authentication protocol that acts like an instruction manual for a receiving email server. Every time an email is sent from your domain, the receiver’s email server checks your DMARC records (published on your DNS), and validates the email. If the email is legitimate, it ‘passes’ DMARC authentication, and gets delivered to the user’s inbox.

If the email is from an unauthorized sender, depending on your DMARC policy, the email can be either sent directly to spam, or even blocked outright.

Learn more about how DMARC works here.

DMARC can almost completely eliminate all spam emails that originate from your domain, because instead of blocking fake emails as they leave your domain, it instead checks for authenticity as the email arrives in the receiver’s server.

If you’ve already implemented DMARC and are looking for ways to take your brand security even further, there’s Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI). This new email security standard affixes your brand’s logo next to every email from your domain that’s been authenticated by DMARC.

Now, when your customers see an email you’ve sent, they’ll associate your logo with your brand, improving brand recall. And when they see your logo, they’ll learn to only trust emails that have your logo next to them.

Learn more about BIMI here. 

Email is often the first choice for a cybercriminal when they’re launching because it’s so easy to exploit. Unlike brute-force attacks which are heavy on processing power, or more sophisticated methods that require a high level of skill, domain spoofing can be as easy as writing an email pretending to be someone else. In a lot of cases, that ‘someone else’ is a major software service platform that people rely on to do their jobs.

Which is what happened between 15th and 30th April, 2020, when our security analysts at PowerDMARC discovered a new wave of phishing emails targeting leading insurance firms in the Middle East. This attack has been just one among many others in the recent increase of phishing and spoofing cases during the Covid-19 crisis. As early as February 2020, another major phishing scam went so far as to impersonate the World Health Organization, sending emails to thousands of people asking for donations for coronavirus relief.

In this recent series of incidents, users of Microsoft’s Office 365 service received what appeared to be routine update emails regarding the status of their user accounts. These emails came from their organizations’ own domains, requesting users to reset their passwords or click on links to view pending notifications.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the email titles we observed were being used:

*account details changed for users’ privacy

You can also view a sample of a mail header used in a spoofed email sent to an insurance firm:

Received: from [malicious_ip] (helo= malicious_domain)

id 1jK7RC-000uju-6x

for [email protected]; Thu, 02 Apr 2020 23:31:46 +0200

DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; q=dns/txt; c=relaxed/relaxed;

Received: from [xxxx] (port=58502 helo=xxxxx)

by malicious_domain with esmtpsa (TLSv1.2:ECDHE-RSA-AES2  56-GCM-SHA384:256)

From: “Microsoft account team” 

To: [email protected]

Subject: Microsoft Office Notification for [email protected] on 4/1/2020 23:46

Date: 2 Apr 2020 22:31:45 +0100

Message-ID: <[email protected]>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/html;

charset=”utf-8″

Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

X-AntiAbuse: This header was added to track abuse, please include it with any abuse report

X-AntiAbuse: Primary Hostname – malicious_domain

X-AntiAbuse: Original Domain – domain.com

X-AntiAbuse: Originator/Caller UID/GID – [47 12] / [47 12]

X-AntiAbuse: Sender Address Domain – domain.com

X-Get-Message-Sender-Via: malicious_domain: authenticated_id: [email protected]_domain

X-Authenticated-Sender: malicious_domain: [email protected]_domain

X-Source: 

X-Source-Args: 

X-Source-Dir: 

Received-SPF: fail ( domain of domain.com does not designate malicious_ip_address  as permitted sender) client-ip= malicious_ip_address  ; envelope-from=[email protected]; helo=malicious_domain;

X-SPF-Result: domain of domain.com does not designate malicious_ip_address  as permitted sender

X-Sender-Warning: Reverse DNS lookup failed for malicious_ip_address (failed)

X-DKIM-Status: none /  / domain.com /  /  / 

X-DKIM-Status: pass /  / malicious_domain / malicious_domain /  / default

 

Our Security Operation Center traced the email links to phishing URLs that targeted Microsoft Office 365 users. The URLs redirected to compromised sites at different locations around the world.

By simply looking at those email titles, it would be impossible to tell they were sent by someone spoofing your organization’s domain. We’re accustomed to a steady stream of work or account-related emails prompting us to sign into various online services just like Office 365. Domain spoofing takes advantage of that, making their fake, malicious emails indistinguishable from genuine ones. There’s virtually no way to know, without a thorough analysis of the email, whether it’s coming from a trusted source. And with dozens of emails coming in everyday, no one has the time to carefully scrutinize every one. The only solution would be to employ an authentication mechanism that would check all emails sent from your domain, and block only those that were sent by someone who sent it without authorization.

That authentication mechanism is called DMARC. And as one of the leading providers of email security solutions in the world, we at PowerDMARC have made it our mission to get you to understand the importance of protecting your organization’s domain. Not just for yourself, but for everyone who trusts and depends on you to deliver safe, reliable emails in their inbox, every single time.

You can read about the risks of spoofing here: https://powerdmarc.com/stop-email-spoofing/

Find out how you can protect your domain from spoofing and boost your brand here: https://powerdmarc.com/what-is-dmarc/

 

Email phishing has evolved over the years from gamers sending prank emails to it becoming a highly lucrative activity for hackers across the world.

In fact, in the early to mid-’90s AOL experienced some of the first big email phishing attacks. Random credit card generators were used to steal user credentials which allowed hackers to gain wider access into AOL’s company-wide database.

These attacks were shut down as AOL upgraded their security systems to prevent further damage. This then led hackers to develop more sophisticated attacks using impersonation tactics which are still widely used today.

If we jump forward to today, the impersonation attacks most recently affecting both the White House and the WHO prove that any entity is at some point or another is vulnerable to email attacks.

According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report, approximately 32% of data breaches experienced in 2019 included email phishing and social engineering respectively.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the different types of phishing attacks and why they pose a huge threat to your business today.

Let’s get started.

1. Email spoofing

Email spoofing attacks are when a hacker forges an email header and sender address to make it look like the email has come from someone they trust. The purpose of an attack like this is to coax the recipient into opening the mail and possibly even clicking on a link or beginning a dialogue with the attacker

These attacks rely heavily on social engineering techniques as opposed to using traditional hacking methods.

This may seem a rather unsophisticated or ‘low-tech’ approach to a cyberattack. In reality, though, they’re extremely effective at luring people through convincing emails sent to unsuspecting employees. Social engineering takes advantage not of the flaws in a system’s security infrastructure, but in the inevitability of human error.

Take a look:

In September 2019, Toyota lost $37 million to an email scam.

The hackers were able to spoof an email address and convince an employee with financial authority to alter account information for an electronic funds transfer.

Resulting in a massive loss to the company.

2. Business Email Compromise (BEC)

According to the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, BEC scams resulted in over $1.7 million and accounted for more than half cybercrime losses experienced in 2019.

BEC is when an attacker gains access to a business email account and is used to impersonate the owner of that account for the purposes of causing damage to a company and its employees.

This is because BEC is a very lucrative form of email attack, it produces high returns for attackers and which is why it remains a popular cyber threat.

A town in Colorado lost over $1 million to a BEC scam.

The attacker filled out a form on the local website where they requested a local construction company to receive electronic payments instead of receiving the usual checks for work they were currently doing in the town.

An employee accepted the form and updated the payment information and as a result sent over a million dollars to the attackers.

3. Vendor Email Compromise (VEC)

In September 2019, Nikkei Inc. Japan’s largest media organisation lost $29 million.

An employee based in Nikkei’s American office transferred the money on instruction from the scammers who impersonated a Management Executive.

A VEC attack is a type of email scam that compromises employees at a vendor company. Such as our above example. And, of course, resulted in huge financial losses for the business.

What about DMARC?

Businesses the world over are increasing their cybersecurity budgets to limit the examples we’ve listed above. According to IDC global spending on security solutions is forecasted to reach $133.7 billion in 2022.

But the truth of the matter is that the uptake of email security solutions like DMARC is slow.

DMARC technology arrived on the scene in 2011 and is effective in preventing targeted BEC attacks, which as we know are a proven threat to businesses all over the world.

DMARC works with both SPF and DKIM which allows you to determine which actions should be taken against unauthenticated emails to protect the integrity of your domain.

READ: What is DMARC and why your business needs to get on board today?

Each of the above cases had something in common… Visibility.

This technology can reduce the impact email phishing activity can have on your business. Here’s how:

  • Increased visibility. DMARC technology sends reports to provide you with detailed insight into the email activity across your business. PowerDMARC uses a powerful Threat Intelligence engine which helps produce real-time alerts of spoofing attacks. This is coupled with full reporting, allowing your business greater insight into a user’s historical records.
  • Increased email security. You will be able to track your company’s emails for any spoofing and phishing threats. We believe the key to prevention is the ability to act quickly, therefore, PowerDMARC has 24/7 security ops centers in place. They have the ability to pull down domains abusing your email immediately, offering your business an increased level of security.
    The globe is in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this has only provided widespread opportunity for hackers to take advantage of vulnerable security systems.

The recent impersonation attacks on both the White House and the WHO really highlight the need for greater use of DMARC technology.

 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in email phishing, we want to offer you 3 months FREE DMARC protection. Simply click the button below to get started right now 👇