In an increasingly connected world, business protection and secure communication are essential to prevent threats such as Business Email Compromise (BEC). This article will guide you through the mechanisms of BEC, how to protect your business and the innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the security of your emails and documents.
Understanding Business Email Compromise (BEC)
Definition and Operation of BEC
Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a form of phishing attack specifically targeting businesses. Cybercriminals pose as trusted employees, partners or suppliers in order to gain access to sensitive information or carry out fraudulent fund transfers. These attacks often exploit the trust established between stakeholders and can cause huge financial losses.
Real-life Example of BEC
In 2022, a hacker group caused quite a stir by organizing a major fraud campaign using BEC attacks. The group, called Crimson Kingsnake, targeted companies in various sectors in the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
Researchers at Abnormal Security reported that they had identified 92 domains linked to Crimson Kingsnake, which imitated the domains of 19 law firms and debt collection agencies - including major international firms such as Deloitte and Sullivan & Cromwell - in the USA, UK and Australia. They posed as lawyers and sent invoices for services to targeted companies.
Unveiling the Invisible Threat: Understanding BEC Attacks
BEC attacks are an invisible threat that costs businesses billions of dollars every year. Fortunately, innovative tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) technologies could be used to prevent and combat these devious attacks. In this article, we'll explore the different ways AI can help protect your business and ensure a more secure future in the fight against BEC attacks.
ChatGPT and AI: the New Guardians of Cyberspace?
Although ChatGPT, a linguistic model developed by OpenAI and capable of generating realistic text based on inputs provided, is known for helping hackers forge fraudulent texts without spelling mistakes, the technology used in AI can be applied to detecting fraudulent e-mails and strengthening your company's security. AI technologies such as machine learning and deep learning can be used to analyze abnormal behavior in e-mail communications, identify phishing attempts and block BEC attacks before they cause damage.
Both machine learning and deep learning play an essential role in the fight against BEC attacks, contributing to a comprehensive defense strategy. Machine learning algorithms are capable of analyzing large quantities of data, such as e-mail communications, to identify patterns and indicators of BEC attacks. By training patterns on historical data, machine learning can detect anomalies, suspicious email content or unusual behavior that may signal a fraudulent email. By training models on historical data, machine learning can detect anomalies, suspicious e-mail content or unusual behavior that may signal fraudulent e-mail. These algorithms can also be used to develop robust e-mail filtering systems, automatically blocking or flagging potentially malicious e-mails. Drawing on known BEC attack patterns, these systems can adapt their filters to detect new variants.
In addition, machine learning can help detect compromised accounts within an organization. By analyzing login behavior, IP addresses and other relevant data, machine learning algorithms can identify unauthorized access attempts, enabling administrators to take immediate action. The integration of machine learning with threat intelligence feeds ensures up-to-date information on known BEC campaigns, malicious domains and compromised IP addresses. This real-time data keeps machine learning models up-to-date and accurate in detecting emerging threats.
How Can AI Detect BEC Attacks?
AI can detect BEC attacks by analyzing communication patterns, the language used in e-mails and other signals indicating suspicious activity. For example, an AI model can be trained to recognize when the tone or style of an e-mail differs from that usually used by a specific sender. In addition, AI can identify unusual requests such as urgent fund transfers or changes to banking information that could indicate a BEC scam attempt.
Training Your Own AI: a Bulwark Against Specific BEC Attacks
Implementing AI-based email security solutions is an effective approach to combating BEC attacks. Cloudflare Area 1 Email Security, for example, uses artificial intelligence to detect BEC attacks that traditional security solutions may miss. Similarly, Proofpoint leverages AI technology to combat phishing threats, improving email security and protecting organizations against BEC attacks. By integrating AI into their email security infrastructure, organizations can improve their ability to identify and block suspicious emails, reducing the risk of falling victim to BEC scams.
Training the AI model to detect BEC attacks is a crucial step in setting up an in-house AI system. This involves providing the AI model with a diverse dataset of BEC attack examples, enabling it to learn patterns and characteristics indicative of such attacks. Continuous updating and refinement of the AI model is essential to ensure its effectiveness in detecting evolving BEC attack techniques. In addition, organizations need to remain vigilant and keep abreast of the latest scams and AI-based techniques employed by cybercriminals. By combining advanced AI technology with ongoing training and awareness, organizations can strengthen their defenses against BEC attacks and protect their financial resources and sensitive information.
Don't Give Up on Social Engineering!
Yes, the AI storm is taking over and we can see it used in multiple applications in our day to day life, but these solutions are not yet generalized. To protect their data and communications, companies can rely on social engineering and the S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) protocol, that enhances the security of email communications.
Social engineering techniques, combined with machine learning, could make a valuable contribution to the fight against BEC attacks. Security awareness training plays a crucial role in educating employees about the tactics commonly employed in BEC attacks. By making employees aware of social engineering techniques such as identity theft, pretexting and emergency tactics, they can become more vigilant and less likely to fall victim to such attacks.
Social engineering techniques can be used to simulate phishing attacks, enabling organizations to identify vulnerabilities and provide targeted training to improve employee resilience. By sending simulated phishing emails and monitoring employee responses, organizations can gain insight into areas that need strengthening. Incident response training is another essential aspect of social engineering. Employees are trained to recognize and quickly report potential BEC attacks. Clear reporting channels and incident response protocols ensure rapid action and mitigation.
But a mistake is so quick to happen, especially if your team is busy with work. A slight moment of inattention can be catastrophic. The standardized protocol, S/MIME who works with digital certificates issued by a recognized certification authority (CA). These certificates associate a public key with the identity of an individual or organization, enabling secure communications between stakeholders.
The S/MIME protocol can play an essential role in identifying a BEC attack on several levels:
- Authentication: Thanks to the support of digital certificates, S/MIME verifies the identity of the sender of an email. This authentication makes it much more difficult for attackers to successfully impersonate a legitimate executive or business partner.
- Integrity: Digital signatures included in S/MIME messages guarantee that the content of the email has not been altered in transit. Employees can therefore have confidence in the validity of the information contained in the messages they receive.
- Confidentiality: The encryption used by S/MIME ensures that only legitimate recipients can read the content of an email, preventing attackers from accessing sensitive information.
BEC attacks are as common as ever, and where humans fail to detect fraudulent communications and fall prey to hackers, technology may yet save the day. The rise of AI, which began with the launch of ChatGPT in 2022, has changed our relationship with data and creation. However, any innovation can be useful to anyone with malicious intent.
However, hackers using AI to generate fraudulent texts without any spelling mistakes are now facing a response from AI technology itself, using machine learning and deep learning to spot and combat these new frauds. Despite all this, the best attack remains the defense.
Unfortunately these technologies are not yet widely implemented on the market but it doesn’t mean that your company can’t protect against BEC attacks, with the powerful and effective tool of S/MIME you can strengthen email security. By implementing this solution and making your employees aware of good security practices, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with email scams and preserve your organization's reputation.