Security advisory: Spear Phishing after your money

Over the past 6 months, a type of email fraud has come to the fore which has started to provoke concern …. and rightly so. Increasingly, we are seeing instances within our customer base and because they appear to emanate from the CEO or CFO, often pass through spam filters with ease.

Method of operation

The email concerned appears to come from the boss or a senior member of staff, often asking their subordinates to organise a transfer of money to an account. These emails often exhibit a knowledge of the company structure and know who to send the email to and whom it should appear to come from. Rather than the common practice of sending millions of emails blindly, these seem to be after smaller, but higher value targets; researched through public records, social media and website detail.

The email requests that an urgent payment is made outside of normal procedures, often giving a pressing reason for needing the money, such as the need to secure an important contract. Action Fraud UK’s intelligence found that occasionally fraudsters have hacked the genuine email accounts of senior staff before sending the fraudulent emails, which means that a reply is forthcoming when the email is challenged or queried.

How to avoid this scam

  • Always check any unusual payment requests directly, ideally in person or by telephone, to confirm the instruction is genuine. Do not use contact details from the email.
  • Establish a documented internal process for requesting and authorising all payments and be suspicious of any request to make a payment outside of the company’s standard process.
  • Be cautious about any unexpected emails which request urgent bank transfers, even if the message appears to have originated from someone from your own organisation.
  • Ensure email passwords are robust.
  • Consider whether the email contains unusual language or is written in different style to other emails from the sender.

For more information on the most common threats, pls see the article 8 COMMON CYBER CRIMES THAT EFFECT YOU