Understanding Payload-Less Email Attacks in Under 3 Minutes
- by Brittany Day
Digital threats are always evolving, but one trend persists: email is cybercriminals’ preferred vector of attack, accounting for 90% of all digital exploits. Now more than ever, threat actors are taking advantage of remote workers’ increased reliance on cloud email, misconfigured cloud platforms and the fear and uncertainty that are characteristic of the new reality we all face due to COVID-19, and are launching sophisticated attack campaigns designed to obtain credentials, compromise accounts and steal money.
For as long as the Internet has existed, cyber thieves and security companies have been playing “the cat and mouse game” - as security software advances, criminals figure out new methods of evading detection. Attackers have traditionally relied on malicious links and attachments embedded in phishing emails; however, in the current threat landscape, payload-less email attacks - or attacks that don’t involve malicious files - are thriving. By avoiding the use of malicious files, threat actors are often able to remain undetected and continue profiting off of victims’ wrong clicks for an extended period of time. This is great news for the bad guys - but terrible news for unsuspecting users who often end up experiencing financial loss, stolen data and reputation damage.
Learn about payload-less email attacks and how to safeguard against them - in under three minutes.
Breaking it Down: The Most Common and Costly Payload-Less Email Attacks
Business email compromise (BEC) and email account compromise (EAC) are two of the most significant payload-less threats that email users face. BEC describes a sophisticated impersonation scam in which a threat actor obtains access to a corporate email account and sends fraudulent emails under the identity of the account owner in order to steal sensitive information and money from victims. In these complex and highly customized attacks, cybercriminals typically leverage a variety of advanced techniques including social engineering and spear phishing to craft highly convincing fraudulent emails often capable of fooling even the most security-aware employees.
EAC is similar to BEC; however, in this advanced attack malicious actors target individuals as opposed to businesses to initiate fraudulent wire transfers. The EAC scam works by compromising one account, then using the trust established between that account and those associated with that account to steal credentials that can be used to compromise other email accounts and trick victims into unknowingly wiring funds to the attacker. EAC is highly difficult to detect because of the fact that in this scam malicious emails are typically sent directly from the compromised account owner’s computer, which has been authorized to send mail as that user. As a result, these fraudulent emails are not identified and flagged by any sender authentication protocols that the account owner has implemented.
Some Key Stats
- The FBI reports that between June 2016 and July 2019, BEC has generated losses of $26 billion worldwide.
- The FBI has also disclosed that over the past two years, financial losses have increased 136% from BEC attacks alone.
How to Stay Safe
- Think before you click! Take adequate time to thoroughly evaluate each email you receive before interacting with that email.
- Have a dual step process in place for wire transfers.
- Most importantly: With the level of sophistication seen in modern attacks, human error is inevitable. To ensure that users remain safe and to avoid dealing with the devastating consequences of a successful cyberattack, it is critical that businesses implement a comprehensive, threat-ready cloud email security solution capable of keeping them ahead of emerging attacks by analyzing hundreds of thousands of attributes of every email delivered in real-time, ensuring that only safe, legitimate mail reaches the inbox.
The Bottom Line
Threat actors are modernizing their attacks - and organizations must modernize their defenses in order to ensure that their users, their data and their reputation are safe in this heightened digital threat environment. Payload-less email attacks have become prevalent, and businesses must upgrade their email security strategy to be able to detect and block these dangerous exploits. Implementing an adaptive, multi-layered cloud email security solution is the most effective method of fortifying business email against BEC, EAC and other emerging threats.
For weekly security updates, tips and advice, subscribe to our Behind the Shield newsletter.
- Effectively Securing Business Email Accounts: Are Employees the Weakest Link?
- Encryption: An Essential Yet Highly Controversial Component of Digital Security
- Business Email Security Redefined: Key Benefits of Securing Your Business Email with Guardian Digital
- 8 Business Email Security Best Practices
- Demystifying Email Encryption: Stop Sender Fraud
- Demystifying Phishing Attacks: How to Protect Yourself Now
- Demystifying Tax Fraud: How to Avoid Falling Victim to Deceptive, Costly Scams This Tax Season
- Coronavirus Phishing Scams are On the Rise - Is Your Business Email at Risk of Infection?
- Dave Wreski: Founder of Guardian Digital – Open Source Cloud Email Security
- New Ransomware Warnings: Is Your Business Safe from This Silent Threat?
- FBI: Existing Cloud Email Protection Inadequate Against Phishing, Ransomware
- Email Risk is Universal: Securing Business Email in Every Industry Sector
- How To Safely Navigate Office 365 While Working Remotely
- Tips and Advice for Staying Safe Online During COVID-19
- Why Your Business Needs Better Email Security
- Defending Against COVID Email Spoofing Attacks with DMARC
- You’ve Got Mail: How To Tell If It’s Fraud
- Open-Source Security Is Opening Eyes
- Think Like A Criminal: How To Write A Phishing Email
- The Four Biggest Email Threats Your Business Faces Today
- Everything On DocuSign Phishing Attacks in 3 Minutes
- Understanding Payload-Less Email Attacks in Under 3 Minutes
- Demystifying Fileless Malware in Less than 3 Minutes
- How to Protect Sensitive Data & Maintain Client Trust in Financial Services Industry
- Exchange Servers Are Vulnerable - Learn How To Secure Your Email Server Now
- Apache SpamAssassin Leads A Growing List of Open-Source Projects Taking Steps to Correct Instances of Racism and White Privilege
- Cyber Risk Is Greater than Ever in the Legal Industry
- Understanding Malicious URL Protection - And Why You Need It to Secure Your Email
- Email Security for SMBs Beyond COVID-19
- Email Risk Is BIG for SMBs - How To Protect Your Business Now
- Email Threats By The Numbers: How Big Is My Risk?
- The Modern Email Threat Landscape: Where Traditional Defenses Fall Short
- Why Email Security Is More Important Than Ever in This 'New Reality'
- The Threat of CEO Fraud Extends Beyond the C-Suite
- Top Email Security Trends Putting Your Business at Risk of Attack
- Think Like A Criminal: What You Need to Know About Social Engineering Attacks in 2020
- Managed Services: A Key Element of Effective Email Security that Even Modern Solutions Lack
- How To Secure Your Remote Workforce: Advice from Leading Security Experts
- FBI: The 2020 Presidential Election Is Under Attack by Email Scammers
- AT&T Security Researchers Identify a Correlation between Strong Cybersecurity and Business Success
- The Aftermath of a Cyberattack Pt. 1: Phishing Recovery Basics
- It Pays to be Prepared! Ransomware Preparedness & Recovery Basics
- Breaking Down Fileless Malware: Anatomy of an Attack
- Office 365 Email Is Vulnerable to Attack Without These Critical Supplementary Defenses in Place
- Your Current Approach to Email Security May Not Be Enough
- Ways to Prevent Email Account being compromised in a Breach
- Celebrating 20 Years of Revolutionizing Digital Security
- IBM Closes its $34 Billion Acquisition of Red Hat
- Interview with Security Expert and Author Ira Winkler
- What is Phishing Email? How to prevent Phishing email scams?
- Ways Our Business Email Exceed Your Expectations
- Spear Phishing Protection - Definition & How To Recognize Spear Phishing Email
- What is Whaling (Whaling Phishing)? & How to Prevent Whaling attacks?
- Ransomware Attack Explained - Best Practices For Ransomware Protection
- Business Email Compromise (BEC) - Definition & Prevention From BEC Attacks
- Wire Transfer Scams Involving Real Estate Transactions: How to Prevent Fraud with Effective Email Security
- Guardian Digital and Mautic: A Dynamic Open-Source Duo
- Email Malware - How to Recognize & Prevent Malware Email Attack
- An Open-Source Success Story: Apache SpamAssassin Celebrates 18 Years of Effectively Combating Spam Email
- What is Spam Email - Types & How to Prevent Spam Emails?
- Email Virus - Complete Guide to Email Viruses Plus Best Practices
- What Is A Zero-Day Attack & How To Prevent Zero Day Exploit?
- 2020: A New Decade of Digital Threats - Is Your Business Email Secure?
- Linux: An OS Capable of Effectively Meeting the US Government’s Security Needs Heading into 2020
- Email Security: Complete Guide on Email Protection & Types of Email Threats
- Guardian Digital Keeps its Customers Protected from Intel Design Flaw
- Security Spotlight: Open Source Email Security Solutions
- Top Six Advantages of Open Source Development/Products
- Python and Bash - Contenders for the most used scripting language
- Guardian Digital Outlines Top 4 Benefits of Choosing Cloud
- Unrivaled Protection Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Guard Your Email Accounts Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Security Highlights from Defcon 26
- Linux / Open Source FAQs: Common Myths / Misconceptions
- Email Security FAQs Answered by Guardian Digital
- Guardian Digital Mail Systems: Designed to be Secure Without Fail