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This is how much email scammers are now costing businesses every month

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Phishing attacks are on the rise
ZDNet’s Danny Palmer sits down with TechRepublic’s Karen Roby to discuss the rising number of phishing attacks and preventative measures you need to be taking. Read more: https://zd.net/2C6rIVO

The US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has run an analysis on suspect transactions in the past year and found that US businesses in 2018 wired around $301 million per month to business email compromise (BEC) scammers. 

The $301 million in average monthly losses is far higher losses than the FBI’s estimate that US firms lost $1.3 billion in 2018 to BEC scams, however the trends on BEC from both organizations roughly align. 

FinCEN’s figures are based on “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) submitted to it by US financial institutions to help it counter money-laundering and terrorist financing. 

The lucrative scam typically involves criminals compromising an email account of an employee, business partner or supplier and then instructing the victim to wire funds to a fraudster’s account. 

FinCEN says the number of SARs describing BEC fraud has climbed from 500 per month in 2016, when total monthly losses averaged $110 million, to 1,100 BEC-related SARs per month in 2018.  

Businesses in the manufacturing and construction industries are currently the most targeted, accounting for a quarter of BEC cases in 2018. But basically all businesses can become victims to BEC fraud. 

FinCEN found the number of victims from commercial services including landscaping, retail, restaurants and hotel lodgings rose from 6% of reported incidents in 2017 to 18% in 2019. Over the same period, incidents affecting financial firms fell from 16% to 9%.

FinCEN speculates that manufacturing and construction businesses are attractive targets because they have regular interactions with overseas suppliers that frequently require funds to be wired. 

Attacks on real estate firms are also on the rise and, thanks to these businesses handling large transactions, BEC losses represent 20% of the total despite only accounting for 9% of all incidents.   

In most cases, victims sent or attempted to send funds to US accounts that are probably local money mules who serve as a first step in a money laundering scheme. 

FinCEN also notes that impersonating a CEO for BEC fraud is less popular today, accounting for just 12 percent of BEC attempts in 2018, down from a third in 2017. 

The dominant technique today is using fraudulent vendor and client invoices, which grew from 30 percent in 2017 to 39 percent in 2018. FinCEN references the case of a Lithuanian man who conned “multinational firms” into wiring at least $100 million to overseas accounts he controlled. Those companies were Google and Facebook. The man, Evaldas Rimasauskas, in March pleaded guilty to defrauding the companies of $123 million by spoofing invoices from Taiwanese hardware supplier Quanta. 

There is some good news despite the seemingly unstoppable growth of BEC fraud: FinCEN claims its rapid response program, backed by law enforcement, recently topped $500 million in recovered funds. Still, that’s less than 20 percent of the $2.9 billion the FBI estimates US business have lost since 2013.  

“Under the program, when U.S. law enforcement receives a BEC complaint from a victim or a financial institution, the relevant information is forwarded to FinCEN, which moves quickly to track and recover the funds,” FinCEN explains. 

“The program utilizes FinCEN’s ability to rapidly share information with counterpart Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) in more than 164 jurisdictions, and leverages these relationships to encourage foreign authorities to intercede and hold funds or reverse wire transfers.”

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The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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