Wire Fraud Phishing Scam Targeting Executives
February 20, 2016
Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a huge jump in Wire fraud phishing campaigns. Be on high alert for phished emails that look similar to your companies domain from known Executives asking for wire transfers! In almost all cases, hackers are moving away from spoofing email addresses and actually registering domain names similar to yours. From my recent investigations, the findings have all been the same. Here’s a break down of what is happening, and how you can protect yourself from wire fraud.
Let’s pretend the CEO of our company Contoso is named Alex Black. The real Alex Black’s email address is Alex.Black@contoso.com.
The bad actor starts off the phish by registering a domain similar to ours such as “contoso.co”. In almost all cases I have seen, the bad actors are registering domains through VistaPrint because of a free website promo they offer. Details of this can be found on PhishMe.
Once the domain is registered, they then create a legitimate email account similar to an executive at the company, in this example the CEO Alex Black. Okay so now we have our email address Alex.Black@contoso.co.
It’s time to go phishing! The bad actor then sends an email to an unsuspecting employee as Alex.Black@contoso.co. The message looks something similar to this:
Are you busy? I need you to process a wire transfer for me today. Let me know when you are free so that I can send you the beneficiary details.
Sent from my iPhone.
In some cases, employees will respond back to the email, not realizing that the domain name is off. If the bad actor is asked for clarification or confirmation, they usually reply back with urgency saying they are in meetings or travelling and unavailable to talk on the phone. By creating this sense of urgency, employees can sometimes fail to think with basic common sense and fall victim to the phish.
So what can you do to avoid this type of phish?
- Create a standard procedure for wire transfers across your entire organization. At minimum, anyone requesting a wire transfer must validate the transfer over the phone, or create a tiered approach where there is more than 1 person involved in issuing a wire transfer and have set procedures to follow at each tier.
- Create rules in your message filtering system that can look out for this for your executives (Pseudo rule: Any messages where the sender contains Alex.Black, but does not contain .contoso.com, flag as suspicious).
- Educate your users to be more vigilant when asked for a wire transfer!
Written By: Amardeep Juneja