Cyber attackers are expanding their attack methods to steal money and gain access to corporate and employee data, a report has revealed.

There has been a sharp increase in business email compromise or impersonation attacks, according to the latest email security risk assessment report by email management firm Mimecast.

The report is based on aggregated tests that measure the efficacy of widely used email security systems and is aimed at helping participating organisations better understand the number and type of email-borne threats that are getting through their current defences.

Impersonation attacks rise steeply

As part of the cumulative assessments, Mimecast inspected more than 142 million emails that have passed through organisations’ incumbent email security suppliers, which revealed an 80% increase of impersonation or BEC attacks in comparison to the previous quarters’ report.

In BEC attacks, criminals typically gain access to a corporate email account and spoof the owner’s identity to trick employees, customers or partners into approving money transfers to criminal accounts.

An alternative approach is to compromise the computer, email account or email server of the victim organisation to intercept, alter or initiate business transactions, including direct payments on behalf of the victim organisation with the money destined to financial accounts they control.

Continued success of phishing emails

“Targeted malware, heavily socially engineered impersonation attacks and phishing threats are still reaching employee inboxes. This leaves organisations at risk of a data breach and financial loss,” said Matthew Gardiner, cyber security strategist at Mimecast.

“Our latest quarterly analysis saw a continued attacker focus on impersonation attacks quarter on quarter. These are difficult attacks to identify without specialised security capabilities, and this testing shows that commonly used systems aren’t doing a good job catching them.”

According to Mimecast, the report indicates the need for organisations to enhance their cyber resilience strategies for email, with a multi-layered approach that includes a third-party service provider.

Source: ComputerWeekly