FBI: The 2024 Presidential Election Is Under Attack by Email Scammers
- by Brittany Day
Phishing is the predominant modern cyber threat undermining the security and integrity of the upcoming presidential election. Tensions surrounding the 2024 presidential election are higher than ever, presenting cyber thieves with the perfect environment to launch dangerous, timely phishing attacks designed to steal sensitive credentials and large sums of money from victims.
The FBI and CISA have warned: “Cybercriminals and malicious foreign actors are leveraging spoofed domains and email accounts to disseminate false information; gather valid usernames, passwords, and email addresses; collect personally identifiable information; and spread malware, leading to further compromises and potential financial losses.”
The 2016 presidential election, ravaged by spear phishing, should have served as a much-needed cybersecurity wake-up call. However, organizations have chosen to look the other way, continuing to rely on traditional, single-layered defenses like signature-based antivirus software and spam filters or built-in cloud email protection alone to secure their email. These primitive defenses cannot anticipate and block emerging attacks, making them insufficient to ensure a fair, secure election. The FBI reports that despite existing security defenses, 30% of phishing attempts are opened by target users. More must be done to fortify email accounts against phishing and spoofing attacks, especially in this time of heightened risk.
What Is The Current State of Election Security - Or Insecurity?
Misinformation and disinformation campaigns designed to create panic, undermine trust, and sway voting patterns are thriving during this especially polarized, pivotal election season. Phishers are posing as fundraisers, pollsters, and candidates in sophisticated social engineering attacks designed to win voters’ trust - and personal information that can be used to initiate fraudulent wire transfers. These attacks are designed to capitalize on the chaos and confusion surrounding the 2024 presidential election, where cyber thieves then leverage that confusion with fake campaign finance emails or voter registration scams, convincing people to send “donations” instead to a rogue bank account, for example.
One notorious Arizona voter registration ‘error’ phishing scam informs recipients that their voter registration applications are incomplete, luring them into sharing Social Security numbers, license data, and other personal information with attackers. The fraudulent emails sent in this campaign appear to come from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and contain a malicious URL leading to a spoofed web page that steals a variety of personal data, including name, date of birth, mailing address, email address, Social Security number, and driver’s license information. The page is crafted to appear legitimate and includes images pulled from ServiceArizona’s official site.
Scammers are also impersonating political campaigns, asking recipients to donate money or volunteer their time. Guardian Digital has intercepted election-themed scam attempts targeted at recipients with Emotet spear phishing emails purporting to be from the Democratic National Committee, attempting to recruit volunteers. The fraudulent emails sent in this campaign contained malicious Word Document attachments labeled “Team Blue Take Action”, which infected victims’ systems with Emotet malware when downloaded. Emotet has historically exploited current events; however, the threat actor behind the malware, TA542, had not directly leveraged political themes in their messaging before the 2020 election season.
With the election quickly approaching, fake political websites designed to steal personal and financial data are growing. Many fraudulent websites encourage users to sign up or ask for donations. Many can be very tricky to spot, as they use spoofed domains that appear to be legitimate. Users are frequently led to these websites in phishing campaigns leveraging malicious URLs.
The Logical Solution: Fortify Your Business’s Cloud Email Before It’s Too Late
To secure email against spear phishing, ransomware, and other malicious attacks that threaten election security, organizations must implement comprehensive email protection capable of defending against existing and emerging threats.
Defense in depth is essential in combating sophisticated modern email attacks. No single piece of security software can provide adequate protection in today’s heightened digital threat environment. Rather, an effective approach to securing email accounts must involve multiple layers of advanced technologies and protocols engineered to work harmoniously in detecting and responding to the array of threats that challenge them. Because targeted phishing persists as a serious threat to election security, ensuring that malicious URL protection and email authentication protocols designed to protect against spoofing and fraud are implemented as part of an all-in-one email security solution is essential.
Implementing fully managed vCISO email security services can be highly beneficial for organizations. These services simplify administration, enhance security, and free up additional time businesses can devote to important matters besides email security.
Secondary to implementing effective email defenses, here are some tips and best practices for staying safe online this election season:
- Avoid opening emails from unknown senders. Even if an email appears coming from a campaign, you’re better off donating by visiting the official website.
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verifying who produced the content and considering their intent.
- Check political emails carefully for spelling and grammar errors.
- Review the spelling of any URL you visit very carefully.
- Never enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless absolutely necessary.
- Use strong two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your online accounts.
- Ensure that operating systems and applications are updated and disable or remove unneeded software applications.
Keep Learning About Fortifying Business Email Heading into Election Season
Guardian Digital CEO Dave Wreski concludes, “With the 2024 presidential election rapidly approaching, election security is nowhere near where it needs to be. To secure the upcoming election, protect precious voting rights, and uphold the democracy upon which this nation was founded, it is crucial that organizations view email security as a top priority and ensure that they have implemented layered supplementary email defenses that they and the nation as a whole can count on.”
Learn about a threat-ready, fully-supported cloud email security solution that safeguards your email heading into the 2024 election and beyond.
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