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VG Tuesday Tips: The three email threat types that are hardest for users to detect

  Virtual Graffiti

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By: Stephanie Cavigliano

There’s a question that all organizations need to be asking themselves when it comes to securing their email security posture: Do my users know how to distinguish between a legitimate email and an email threat? Some businesses are able to invest heavily in security architecture, and many are not. In a landscape of differing technical security postures, the one common denominator is end-users.

Barracuda has recently identified 13 email threat types- here are the ones most difficult for users to detect:

Business Email Compromise:

When someone impersonates an individual within or with close ties to an organization in order to obtain something of value. Most often these types of attacks are hoping to dupe the victim into handing over money, log-in credentials, or other sensitive data.

Why it’s hard to detect:

Typically, these emails are crafted to look like they come from someone’s personal email account and include an urgent request. They want the recipient to think “this person is in a rush, and they need my help”. Adding an indicator that the message was sent from a mobile device makes it more likely that the recipient will overlook typos or abnormal formatting. Often, individuals don’t know the legitimate personal email addresses of their co-workers or managers, so if the name looks correct in the header and signature, they don’t question it.

Conversation Hijacking:

This type of attack happens after a bad actor has already gained access to an internal account. They insert themselves into a legitimate conversation thread by spinning up a lookalike domain and effectively remove the compromised party- isolating the email thread to just the hacker and their new victim.

Why it’s hard to detect:

The victim has already established a rapport with a legitimate recipient- this might be someone they email on a regular basis, maybe even someone they’ve talked with over the phone or met in person. Sometimes the only clue will be a very subtle difference in the email address and/or domain of the compromised party. If the recipient of the conversation hijacking email is on their mobile device, distracted, or not in the practice of double-checking an email sender’s FROM address, they can easily fall victim to this type of attack.

Brand Impersonation:

There are two types of brand impersonation: Service Impersonation and Brand Hijacking. Service Impersonation is when a hacker impersonates a commonly used application to coax users into re-entering login credentials or other personal information. Brand Hijacking is when a hacker uses a spoofed domain to impersonate a reputable company.

Why it’s hard to detect:

Users have become accustomed to receiving legitimate emails from applications prompting them to re-enter their credentials. Requests from O365, Amazon, and Apple asking users to confirm their identities, reset their passwords, or agree to new service terms are commonplace in many user inboxes, so most don’t think twice before clicking links that ultimately send them to phishing sites.

The Solution:

Users who receive consistent training on the 13 threat types – how they function, how to identify them, and how to report them – are much less likely to fall victim to them. Barracuda PhishLine equips organizations with an effective security awareness training platform to test their users, analyze user behavior patterns, and train individuals and departments on security best practices. Using threat data gathered from other Barracuda Email Protection solutions, PhishLine allows program admins to expose their users to real-world attacks – without the threat of a data breach, brand damage, and financial loss. When technical security controls come up short, it’s up to the user to determine if an email attack is successful- empower your users to react securely.





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