10 real examples of business email compromise

Business Email Compromise (BEC) represents a growing threat in the realm of cybersecurity, where attackers manipulate email accounts for fraudulent purposes. Here are 10 real-world examples of BEC incidents that highlight the tactics used by cybercriminals to compromise businesses:

  1. CEO Fraud: Cybercriminals impersonate company executives, typically CEOs, and send emails to finance or HR departments requesting urgent wire transfers or sensitive employee information. In one instance, a fraudster posed as the CEO of a company, convincing the CFO to transfer substantial funds to a fraudulent account, resulting in financial loss.
  2. Invoice Fraud: Attackers infiltrate email systems and alter legitimate invoices, manipulating payment details to redirect funds to their accounts. For instance, a supplier’s email account was compromised, leading to the alteration of invoice details, causing a business to pay for services to the wrong entity.
  3. Phishing Attacks: Phishing emails, disguised as legitimate correspondence, aim to extract sensitive information or credentials. An example includes an email appearing to be from a reputable vendor, requesting login credentials for a supposed system update. Subsequently, the obtained credentials were misused for unauthorized access.
  4. Vendor Impersonation: Cybercriminals pose as trusted vendors or partners to deceive employees into making payments or providing confidential information. In an incident, a hacker gained access to an employee’s email account and sent emails pretending to be a vendor, requesting a change in banking details for future payments.
  5. Gift Card Scams: Fraudulent emails, appearing to be from company executives, target employees, requesting the purchase of gift cards for supposed rewards or client appreciation. Employees fall victim to this scheme and unknowingly send the gift card codes to the fraudster.
  6. Account Compromise: Attackers gain unauthorized access to an employee’s email account, allowing them to monitor conversations and orchestrate fraudulent activities from within the compromised account. They exploit this access to send deceptive messages or redirect funds.
  7. CEO/CFO Spoofing: Cybercriminals spoof email addresses to mimic those of high-level executives, such as CEOs or CFOs. They use these fake addresses to deceive employees into performing certain actions, such as transferring funds or disclosing sensitive information.
  8. Change in Payment Instructions: Criminals intercept legitimate payment requests and modify the payment instructions to redirect funds to fraudulent accounts. This manipulation often occurs during ongoing transactions or deals, leading to financial losses for businesses.
  9. W-2 Data Requests: During tax season, attackers target HR or finance departments, posing as company executives and requesting employee W-2 forms or other sensitive payroll information. This data is then used for identity theft or fraudulent tax filings.
  10. Employee Personal Information Requests: Cybercriminals, impersonating HR personnel or higher-ups, request personal information from employees under the guise of company policy updates or verifications. This stolen information can be misused for identity theft or other malicious purposes.

    Business Email Compromise represents a persistent threat to businesses, exploiting email communication to deceive employees and compromise sensitive data. These real-world examples underscore the diverse tactics employed by cybercriminals, emphasizing the importance of robust cybersecurity measures, employee awareness, and proactive strategies to thwart such attacks and protect business interests. Vigilance, education, and implementing stringent security protocols are crucial in mitigating the risks posed by BEC incidents.


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