April 27, 2020 By David Bisson 2 min read

A threat group known as “The Florentine Banker” stole approximately £600K in a successful business email compromise (BEC) scam.

Check Point Research reported that the Florentine Banker group had targeted three large organizations in the British and Israeli financial sectors. Those attacks began when the threat group set up a phishing campaign that targeted the CEO, CFO and/or other individuals in the organization who had the authority to authorize money transfers. After gaining access to a victim’s account, the attackers read the emails stored therein to learn about the channels used to process money transfers and to glean more about who might be involved in completing such a transaction.

Operating mostly from Monday through Friday, the nefarious individuals used this intelligence to create mailbox rules in order to divert emails with interesting content to a folder under their control. They then created domains that appeared to originate from entities they might want to impersonate in their emails. It’s at that point that the threat group sent out emails from those lookalike domains. Ultimately, they attempted to intercept wire transfer requests written in English or to authorize new transfers.

Via this attack chain, malicious actors succeeded in stealing approximately £600K from a victim and transferring these funds to fraudulent bank accounts.

The Growing Impact of Business Email Compromise

In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received 23,775 complaints of BEC ruses. Those scams accounted for approximately 5 percent of the total number of digital crime reports received by investigators that year. Even so, BEC ruses accounted for nearly half ($1.7 billion) of the total losses of all those digital crime instances.

How to Defend Against BEC Scams and Other Email Threats

Security professionals can help defend their organizations against threat actors such as the Florentine Banker by regularly conducting security awareness trainings to educate the workforce about the latest phishing techniques, including executives and others who are most at risk of a BEC attack. Teams should back this education up with cyber resilience solutions, such as behavioral analytics tools that look for evidence of successful BEC scams and other attacks within authorized users’ activity.

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