Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
Pros and Cons of Phishing Awareness Training
By Maddie Rosenthal
03 August 2020
Over the last several weeks, phishing, spear phishing, and social engineering attacks have dominated headlines. But, phishing isn’t a new problem. These scams have been circulating since the mid-’90s.  So, what can security leaders do to prevent being targeted? Unfortunately, not much. Hackers play the odds and fire off thousands of phishing emails at a time, hoping that at least a few will be successful. The key, then, is to train employees to spot these scams. That’s why phishing awareness training is such an essential part of any cybersecurity strategy. But is phishing awareness training alone enough? Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of phishing awareness training as well as the steps security leaders need to take to level up their inbound threat protection. Still wondering how big of a problem phishing really is? Check out the latest phishing statistics for 2020.
To make this article easy-to-navigate, we’ll start with a simple list of the pros and cons of phishing awareness training. For more information about each point, you can click the text to jump down on the page. 
Pros of phishing awareness training Phishing awareness training introduces employees to threats they might not be familiar with While people working in security, IT, or compliance are all-too-familiar with phishing, spear phishing, and social engineering, the average employee isn’t. The reality is, they might not have even heard of these terms. That means phishing awareness training is an essential first step. To successfully spot a phish, they have to know they exist. By showing employees examples of attacks – including the subject lines to watch out for, a high-level overview of domain impersonation, and the types of requests hackers will generally make – they’ll immediately be better placed to identify what is and isn’t a phishing attack.   Looking for resources to help train your employees? Check out this blog with a shareable PDF. It includes examples of phishing attacks and reasons why the email is suspicious.  Phishing awareness training can teach employees more about existing policies and procedures Again, showing employees what phishing attacks look like is step one. But ensuring they know what to do if and when they receive one is an essential next step and is your chance to remind employees of existing policies and procedures. For example, who to report attacks to within the security or IT team. Importantly, though, phishing awareness training should also reinforce the importance of other policies, specifically around creating strong passwords, storing them safely, and updating them frequently. After all, credentials are the number one “type” of data hackers harvest in phishing attacks.  Phishing awareness training can help security leaders identify particularly risky and at-risk employees By getting teams across departments together for training sessions and phishing simulations, security leaders will get a birds’ eye view of employee behavior. Are certain departments or individuals more likely to click a malicious link than others? Are senior executives skipping training sessions? Are new-starters struggling to pass post-training assessments?  These observations will help security leaders stay ahead of security incidents, can inform subsequent training sessions, and could help pinpoint gaps in the overall security framework.
Phishing awareness training can help satisfy compliance standards While you can read more about various compliance standards – including GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and GLBA – on our compliance hub, they all include a clause that outlines the importance of implementing proper data security practices. What are “proper data security practices?” This criterion has – for the most part – not been formally defined. But, phishing awareness training is certainly a step in the right direction and demonstrates a concerted effort to secure data company-wide.   Phishing awareness training can help foster a strong security culture In the last several years (due in part to increased regulation) cybersecurity has become business-critical. But, it takes a village to keep systems and data safe, which means accountability is required from everyone to make policies, procedures, and tech solutions truly effective.  That’s why creating and maintaining a strong security culture is so important. While this is easier said than done, training sessions can help encourage employees – whether in finance or sales – to become less passive in their roles as they relate to cybersecurity, especially when gamification is used to drive engagement. You can read more about creating a positive security culture on our blog. Phishing awareness training can enable employees to spot scams in their personal lives, too The point of phishing awareness training is to prevent successful attacks in the workplace. But, it’s important to remember that phishing attacks are targeted at consumers, too. That’s why the most frequently impersonated brands are household names like Netflix and Facebook. Why does this matter? Because phishing attacks have serious consequences, and not just for larger organizations. If an employee was scammed in a consumer attack, they could lose thousands of dollars or even have their identity stolen. It’s hard to imagine a world in which this wouldn’t affect their work. The bottom line: prevention is better than cure and knowledge is power. Phishing awareness training won’t just protect your organization’s data and assets, it’ll empower your people to protect themselves outside of the office, too. 
Cons of phishing awareness training Phishing awareness training can’t prevent human error While phishing awareness training will help employees spot phishing scams and make them think twice before clicking a link or downloading an attachment, it’s not a silver bullet.  Even the most security-conscious and tech-savvy employees can – and do – fall for phishing attacks. Case in point: Employees working in the tech industry are the most likely to click on links in phishing emails, with nearly half (47%)  admitting to having done it. This is 22% higher than the average across all industries. As the saying goes, to “err is human”. Phishing awareness training can’t evolve as quickly as threats do Hackers think and move quickly and are constantly crafting more sophisticated attacks to evade detection. That means that training that was relevant three months may not be today. We only have to look at the spike in COVID-19 themed phishing attacks starting in March for proof. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, very few phishing awareness programs would have trained employees to look for impersonations of the World Health Organization, for example. Likewise, impersonations of collaboration tools like Zoom took off as soon as workforces shifted to remote-working. (Click here for more real-life examples of COVID-19 phishing emails.) What could be next?  Phishing awareness training has hidden costs According to Mark Logsdon, Head of Cyber Assurance and Oversight at Prudential, there are three fundamental flaws in training: it’s boring, often irrelevant, and expensive. We’ll cover the first two below but, for now, let’s focus on the cost. Needless to say, the cost of training and simulation software varies vendor-by-vendor. But, the solution itself is far from the only cost to consider. What about lost productivity? Imagine you have a 1,000-person organization and, as a part of an aggressive inbound strategy, you’ve opted to hold training every quarter. Training lasts, on average, three hours. That’s 12,000 lost hours a year.  While – yes – a successful attack would cost more, we can’t forget that phishing awareness training alone doesn’t work. (See point 1: Phishing awareness training can’t prevent human error.)
Phishing awareness training isn’t targeted (or engaging) enough Going back to what Mark Logsdon said: Training is boring and often irrelevant. It’s easy to see why. You can’t apply one lesson to an entire organization – whether it’s 20 people or 20,0000 – and expect it to stick. It has to be targeted based on age, department, and tech-literacy. Age is especially important.  According to Tessian’s latest research, nearly three-quarters of respondents who admitted to clicking a phishing email were aged between 18-40 years old. In comparison, just 8% of people over 51 said they had done the same. However, the older generation was also the least likely to know what a phishing email was. !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script"),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement("script");a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js"); Jeff Hancock, the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University and expert in trust and deception, explained how tailored training programs could help. “A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Different generations have grown up with tech in different ways, and security training needs to reflect this. That’s not to say that we should think that people over 50 are tech-illiterate, though. Businesses need to consider what motivates each age group and tailor training accordingly.”  “Being respected at work is incredibly important to an older generation, so telling them that they don’t understand something isn’t an effective way to educate them on the threats. Instead, businesses should engage them in a conversation, helping them to identify how their strengths and weaknesses could be used against them in an attack.”  “Many younger employees, on the other hand, have never known a time without the internet and they don’t want to be told how to use it. This generation has a thirst for knowledge, so teach them the techniques that hackers will use to target them. That way, when they see a scam, they’ll be able to unpick it and recognize the tactics being used on them.”   Phishing awareness training can’t force employees to care about cybersecurity Unfortunately, the average employee is less focused on cybersecurity and more focused on getting their jobs done. That’s why one-third (33%) rarely or never think about security and work and over half (54%) of employees say they’ll find a workaround if security software or policies prevent them from doing their job.  While – yes – security leaders can certainly reinforce the importance of software and policies, training alone won’t help control employee’s behavior or inspire every single person to become champions of cybersecurity. Phishing awareness can’t change quick-to-click company cultures It’s widely accepted that time pressure negatively impacts decision accuracy. But did you know that individuals who are expected to respond to emails quickly are also the most likely to click on phishing emails?  !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script"),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement("script");a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js"); It makes sense. If you’re rushing to read and fire off emails – especially when you’re working off of laptops, phones, and even watches – you’re more likely to make mistakes.
Should I create a phishing awareness training program? The short answer: Absolutely. Phishing awareness training programs can help teach employees what phishing is, how to spot phishing emails, what to do if they’re targeted, and the implications of falling for an attack. But, as we’ve said, training isn’t a silver bullet. It will curb the problem, but it won’t prevent mistakes from happening. That’s why security leaders need to bolster training with technology that detects and prevents inbound threats. That way, employees aren’t the last line of defense. But, given the frequency of attacks year-on-year, it’s clear that spam filters, antivirus software, and other legacy security solutions aren’t enough. That’s where Tessian comes in. How does Tessian detect and prevent targeted phishing attacks? Tessian fills a critical gap in security strategies that SEGs, spam filters, and training alone can’t.  By learning from historical email data, Tessian’s machine learning algorithms can understand specific user relationships and the context behind each email. This allows Tessian Defender to detect a wide range of impersonations, spanning more obvious, payload-based attacks to difficult-to-spot social-engineered ones like CEO Fraud and Business Email Compromise. Once detected, real-time warnings are triggered and explain exactly why the email was flagged, including specific information from the email. (See below.) This is an important function. Why? Because, according to Jeff, “People learn best when they get fast feedback and when that feedback is in context,” 
These in-the-moment warnings reinforce training and policies and help employees improve their security reflexes over time.  To learn more about how tools like Tessian Defender can prevent spear phishing attacks, speak to one of our experts and request a demo today.
Data Exfiltration DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
Research Shows How To Prevent Mistakes Before They Become Breaches
By Maddie Rosenthal
22 July 2020
We all make mistakes. But with over two-fifths of employees saying they’ve made mistakes at work that have had security repercussions, businesses need to find a way to stop mistakes from happening before they compromise cybersecurity.  That’s why we developed our report The Psychology of Human Error, with the help of Jeff Hancock, a professor at Stanford University and expert in social dynamics online.  We wanted to understand why these mistakes are happening, rather than simply dismissing incidents of human error as people acting carelessly or labeling people the ‘weakest link’ when it comes to security. By doing so, we hope businesses can better understand how to protect their people, and the data they control.  Key findings: 43% of employees have made mistakes that have compromised cybersecurity A third of workers (33%) rarely or never think about cybersecurity when at work 52% of employees make more mistakes when they’re stressed, while 43% are more error-prone when tired 58% have sent an email to the wrong person at work and 1 in 5 companies lost customers after an employee sent a misdirected email  Read on to learn why this matters. You can also register for our webinar on August 19 here. We’ll be exploring key findings from the report with Jeff Hancock. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how hacker’s are manipulating employees and what you can do to stop them. What mistakes are people making?  The majority of our survey respondents said they had sent an email to the wrong person, with nearly one-fifth of these misdirected emails ending up in the wrong external person’s inbox.  Far from just red-faced embarrassment, this simple mistake has devastating consequences. Not only do companies face the wrath of data protection regulators for flouting the rules of regulations like GDPR, our research reveals that one in five companies lost customers as a result of a misdirected email, because the trust they once had with their clients was broken. What’s more, one in 10 workers said they lost their job.  !function(e,i,n,s){var t="InfogramEmbeds",d=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement("script");o.async=1,o.id=n,o.src="https://e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js",d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async"); Another mistake was clicking on links in phishing emails, something a quarter of respondents (25%) said they had done at work. This figure was significantly higher in the Technology industry however, with 47% of workers in this sector saying they’d fallen for phishing scams. It goes to show that even the most cybersecurity savvy people can make mistakes.  Interestingly, men were twice as likely as women to fall for phishing scams. While researchers aren’t 100% sure as to why gender differences play a factor in phishing susceptibility, our report does show that demographics play a role in people’s cybersecurity behaviors at work.  What’s causing these mistakes to happen?  1. Younger employees are 5x more likely to make mistakes 50% aged 18-30 years olds said they had made such mistakes with security repercussions for themselves or their organization. Just 10% of workers over 51 said the same.  This disparity, our report suggests, is not because younger workers are more careless. Rather, it may be because younger workers are actually more aware that they have made a mistake and are also more willing to admit their errors. For older generations, Professor Hancock explains, self-presentation and respect in the workplace are hugely important. They may be more reluctant to admit they’ve made a mistake because they feel ashamed due to preconceived notions about their generations and technology. Businesses, therefore, need to not only acknowledge how age affects cybersecurity behaviors but also find ways to deshame the reporting of mistakes in their organization. 2. 93% of employees are stressed and tired Employees told us they make more mistakes at work when they are stressed (52%), tired (43%), distracted (41%) and working quickly (36%).  This is concerning when you consider that an overwhelming 93% of employees surveyed said they were either tired or stressed at some point during the working week. This isn’t helped by the fact that nearly two-thirds of employees feel chained to their desks, with 61% saying there is a culture of presenteeism in their organization that makes them work longer hours than they need to.  The Covid-19 pandemic has put people under huge amounts of stress and change. In light of the events of 2020, our findings call for businesses to empathize with people’s positions and understand the impact stress and working cultures have on cybersecurity.
3. 57% of employees are being driven to distraction 47% of employees surveyed cited distraction as a top reason for falling for a phishing scam, while two-fifths said they sent an email to the wrong person because they were distracted.  With over half of workers (57%) admitting they’re more distracted when working from home, the sudden shift to remote-working could open businesses up to even more risks caused by human error. It’s hardly surprising. We suddenly had to set-up offices in the homes we share with our young children, pets and our housemates. There’s a lot going on, and mistakes are likely to happen. 
4. 41% thought phishing emails were from someone they trusted Over two-fifths of people (43%) mistakenly clicked on phishing emails because they thought the request was legitimate, while 41% said the email appeared to have come from either a senior executive or a well-known brand.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen hackers impersonating well-known brands and trusted authorities in their phishing scams, taking advantage of people’s desire to seek guidance and information on the pandemic. Impersonating someone in a position of trust or authority is a common and effective tactic used by hackers in phishing campaigns. Why? Because they know how difficult or unlikely it is to ignore a request from someone you like, respect or report into.  Businesses need to protect their people from these phishing scams. Educate staff on the ways hackers could take advantage of their circumstances and invest in solutions that can detect the impersonations, when your distracted and overworked employees can’t. !function(e,i,n,s){var t="InfogramEmbeds",d=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement("script");o.async=1,o.id=n,o.src="https://e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js",d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async"); But how can businesses prevent these mistakes from happening in the first place?  To successfully prevent mistakes from turning into serious security incidents, businesses have to take a more human approach.  It’s all too easy to place the blame of data breaches on people’s mistakes. But businesses have to remember that not every employee is an expert in cybersecurity. In fact, a third of our survey respondents (33%) said they rarely or never think about cybersecurity when at work. They are focused on getting the jobs they were hired to do, done. !function(e,i,n,s){var t="InfogramEmbeds",d=e.getElementsByTagName("script")[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement("script");o.async=1,o.id=n,o.src="https://e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js",d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async"); Training and policies help. However, combining this with machine intelligent security solutions – like Tessian – that automatically alert individuals of potential threats in real-time is a much more powerful tool in preventing mistakes before they turn into breaches.  Alerting employees to the threat in-the-moment helps override impulsive and dangerous decision-making that could compromise cybersecurity. By using explainable machine learning, we arm employees with the information they need to apply conscious reasoning to their actions over email, making them think twice before doing something they might regret. 
And with greater visibility into the behaviors of your riskiest and most at-risk employees, your teams can tailor security training and policies to influence and improve staff’s cybersecurity behaviors. Only by protecting people and preventing their mistakes can you ensure data and systems remain secure, and help your people do their best work. Read the full Psychology of Human Error report here.
DLP Spear Phishing
Why Political Campaigns Need Chief Information Security Officers
20 July 2020
On July 10th, Joe Biden’s US presidential campaign announced it was hiring a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Biden’s campaign team told The Hill that these security professionals would help “mitigate cyber threats, bolster… voter protection efforts, and enhance the overall efficiency and security of the entire campaign.” This development confirms what cybersecurity experts have long understood — that, just like businesses, political campaigns require a CISO. We’ll tell you why. Are political campaigns likely targets of cybercrime? Rates of cybercrime — and the sophistication of cybercriminals — continue to increase across all sectors. Whether it’s phishing attacks, malware, ransomware, or brute force attacks, incidents are on the rise.  And, when you consider which industries are the most targeted (Healthcare, Financial Services, Manufacturing) It’s easy to understand why political campaigns are also targets of hackers and scammers: Political campaigns are a cornerstone of the democratic process They process the personal information of thousands of voters  They handle confidential and security-sensitive information These aren’t anecdotal reasons. Political campaigns have been targeted by cybercriminals before. For example, in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, received a spear phishing email disguised as a Google security alert. Podesta followed a link, entered his login credentials, and exposed over 50,000 emails to malicious actors. This is a great example of how human error can lead to data breaches and goes to show that anyone can make a mistake.  That’s why cybersecurity is so important. Learn how Tessian prevents spear phishing attacks.  How can a CISO help a political campaign? Hiring a CISO — and thus improving the cybersecurity of political campaigns — has three main benefits: Safeguarding the democratic process Protecting voter privacy Maintaining national security Let’s explore each of these in a bit more detail. You can also check out our CISO Spotlight Series to get a better idea of what role a CISO plays across different sectors.  Safeguarding the Democratic Process Whatever your political persuasion, it’s hard to ignore headlines that detail the role cybercriminals played in the 2016 US election, including: Cyberattacks occurred against politicians Electoral meddling undermined voters’ faith in the democratic process Better cybersecurity could have mitigated the impact of electoral cyberattacks A CISO ensures better coordination of a political campaign’s IT security program. This can involve: Mandating security software on all campaign devices  Setting up DMARC records for domains used in campaigning Assessing risk and responding to threats Increasing staff awareness of good cybersecurity practices Of course, these functions aren’t specific to political campaigns. A CISO’s job, whether at a big bank or a law firm, is to safeguard systems, data, and devices by implementing policies, procedures, and technology and to help build a positive security culture. The difference, though, is that while a CISO at your “average” organization helps prevent data breaches and other security incidents, the CISO of a political campaign does all of this while also helping maintain faith in the process among voters.  Keep reading to find out how. Protecting voter privacy Political campaigns must communicate directly with individual voters which means those working on the campaign have access to highly sensitive information. And, we’re not just talking about names and addresses. Even a person’s intention to vote is highly sensitive personal information.  While – yes – many people publicly proclaim their ideology and voting intention via social media, those people don’t expect their information to be mined by data-harvesting software, combined with other personal information, and shared with unauthorized third parties. They simply want to share their views with friends, family, and followers.
Like hacking, data mining operations can affect the outcome of elections. They also represent a gross invasion of individual privacy.  How valuable an asset is voter data? A few recent high-profile examples will give you an idea. (Click the links to learn more about each individual incident.) The UK pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal Rand Paul and Ted Cruz’s campaigns allegedly selling their voters’ contact information to the Trump campaign Rick Santorum’s campaign selling voters’ data to a “doomsday prepper” firm These examples prove that voter data can be used to raise funds or create a political advantage. But what are the consequences? To start, voter trust is lost which – as we’ve discussed – can impact the democratic process. Beyond that, there are also legal ramifications. Under state and federal privacy laws, selling personal information is a legally-regulated activity. Any allegation that a campaign has violated privacy law would be extremely damaging not just reputationally, but financially.  A CISO can help ensure that a political campaign is less likely to engage in risky behavior with voters’ personal information and assist the campaign to comply with privacy law.  But it’s not just personal information that political campaigns handle. Maintaining National Security Political campaigns also handle security-sensitive information which must be carefully safeguarded. Robert Deitz, former senior counselor to the CIA, told Washington Post that a Russian cyberattack on the Trump campaign could reveal information about Trump’s foreign investments and negotiating style. Having access to this data could help Russia understand “where it can get away with foreign adventurism.” A CISO has overall responsibility for information safeguarding within an organization. They understand:  What types of data exist about the candidate  How and where the information is processed, stored, and transferred Who can access the data All of this information helps CISOs implement data loss prevention (DLP) strategies in order to keep sensitive information out of the hands of bad actors.  Why does this matter?  Data privacy – and therefore cybersecurity – is essential for the modern world.  In fact, in business, a strong security posture fosters trust with customers and prospects and is therefore considered a competitive edge. Why? Because data is valuable currency. Customers and prospects expect the organizations they interact with to safeguard the information shared with them. Shouldn’t politicians foster trust with voters in the same way? 
Spear Phishing
Phishing vs. Spear Phishing: Differences and Defense Strategies
13 July 2020
On average, 246.5 billion emails are sent and received every single day. Of those, 6.4 billion will be “fake”. When these “fake” emails are created by cybercriminals in an effort to trick unsuspecting targets into sharing sensitive information or transferring money, they’re called phishing attacks or spear phishing attacks. Keep reading to learn more about these two types of attacks, including the difference between them, how to spot them, and defense strategies. What is the difference between phishing and spear phishing?
There are three key differences between phishing and spear phishing. Phishing attacks are high-volume, most often targeting hundreds or thousands of people while spear phishing attacks are low-volume, meaning only one person or a small group of people are targeted. Phishing attacks are non-personalized while spear phishing attacks are highly personalized. Phishing emails more often employ malicious links or attachments (called “payloads”) to deliver malware or capture sensitive information, while spear phishing emails don’t always carry payloads; these are called “zero-payload attacks”.
What is phishing? Phishing is one of the oldest, most prevalent, and most disruptive cyber attacks in the world. For some perspective, we’ve seen a 250% increase in the frequency of phishing attacks from 2018 to 2019. Likewise, we’ve seen the cost of the average data breach climb to $3.92 million and – you guessed it – phishing attacks are the number one cause of these breaches. Phishing attacks rely largely on impersonation – often of trusted brands – to obtain money or sensitive information from unsuspecting targets or to install malware on their computers. While it may come as a surprise, it’s likely that at some point, most of us have actually been a target, whether via our personal email accounts or business email accounts. These attacks have even evolved past email, with bad actors now using telephone and SMS as entry vectors. This is referred to as smishing. Don’t think it could happen to you? Over the last several years alone, customers of big brands like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have all been targeted, impacting millions of people. This is, of course, in addition to the more blatantly obvious scams in which Bill Gates, Donald Trump or a Nigerian Prince offer to share their fortune with you. Surprisingly, many of these scams aren’t particularly sophisticated and require little technical know-how from attackers. Instead of relying on the quality of the scam, phishing attacks target large numbers of people to increase their odds. The logic: more targets equal more opportunity for success.
Looking at the email above, you’ll see that the email appears to be sent from FedEx Customer Service, the greeting is generic and un-personalized, and the content of the message – from the subject line to email body – motivates the user to act. Of course, the link won’t lead to an authentic page. Instead, it will lead users to a look-a-like page. While this page will contain branded elements that resemble the genuine FedEx site, any information inputted will be collected by the scammer, not FedEx. Just like that, a crook can have access to your personal data. It’s important to note, though, that it’s more likely that only someone who was actually expecting a delivery from FedEx will follow the link and enter information like their name, address, or phone number in order to arrange a new delivery time. Attackers know this, hence why an email like this will have been sent to hundreds or even thousands of people. Remember: more targets equal more opportunity for success. But, not all cyber attacks are bulk in nature; spear phishing is highly targeted and extremely difficult to detect.
What is spear phishing? Like phishing attacks, spear phishing attacks rely on impersonation to obtain money or sensitive information or install malware. But, instead of using generic email content and the front of a trusted brand, bad actors will use personalized correspondence to manipulate targets into transferring money, handing over sensitive information, or granting access to an otherwise secure network. Because of the personalized nature of these emails, they are not sent to hundreds of people. Instead, they’re sent to one person or a small, targeted group like a specific department within an organization, oftentimes “from” a source that’s trusted by the target(s) like a supplier, a line manager, or CEO. Whereas a phishing scam simply requires a believable email template, potentially a look-a-like landing page or an infected attachment, a successful spear phishing attack requires more effort. Given the personalized nature of a spear phishing email, a cybercriminal will have to do a bit of due diligence to ensure the email is believable and therefore effective.
Looking at the example above, we can see how a spear phishing email resembles a phishing email. The sender is impersonating someone else, in this case, Tom Adams, a senior employee at Dorling Clayton. Likewise, there’s a clear call to action that motivates the user to act. There are noteworthy differences, though. To start, the email is highly personalized. The target is addressed by name and the sender demonstrates a lot of knowledge related specifically to Laura’s organization and, it would seem, Tom Adams himself, including conferences he’s speaking at and organizations within his supply chain. What’s more, the attacker is leveraging Tom’s senior position within the company to coerce the target to act quickly. If you got an email with an urgent request from a Senior Partner, what would you do? A savvy recipient may notice that the sender domain looks suspicious. But, it’s rare for people to scrutinize sender domains and almost impossible for them to do so on mobile phones – where a lot of us send and receive emails – because the domain is usually hidden, with only the display name visible.
Under pressure to perform, many people would pay the £11,522 into the account requested without asking any questions. Unfortunately, this swift action would be bad news for Dorling Clayton as the money would be delivered to a scammer, not SoBank. This is a classic example of CEO Fraud.
Defense strategies for phishing Because phishing schemes have been around since the mid-90s, there are a handful of solutions for both consumers and businesses that can help decrease the number of fraudulent emails that land in your inbox. These include the following: Spam Filters: Created and installed by Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Gmail, spam filters sort incoming messages based on a programmed set of rules. Emails with known viruses or sent from blacklisted domains will either be automatically redirected from your inbox into a junk folder or won’t be delivered at all. Think of this as your first line of defense. Secure Email Gateways (SEGs): A step above spam filters, SEGs are optimized for better spam detection and have therefore historically been an important part of  business’ security framework, in particular for large-scale bulk email detection. Training: Whether done via regular phishing simulations or cybersecurity awareness sessions, training is invaluable for both individual employees and the larger organization. After all, it is people who are controlling all of our data and networks. Email Authentication: In order to prevent direct impersonation of an organization’s domain, the organization can enforce a DMARC policy. Unfortunately, though, only 51% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted this email-authentication standard. These solutions certainly help mitigate risk, but millions of phishing emails evade detection by filters and gateways and dupe well-trained people everyday. That means individuals must still be vigilant in inspecting emails before downloading an attachment, clicking a link, or otherwise divulging sensitive information. To stay safe on email we recommend that you: Review the email address of senders and look out for impersonations of trusted brands, including display name impersonation and domain impersonation. Always inspect URLs in emails for legitimacy by hovering over links before clicking on them Pay attention to differences – that may be very subtle – in website content if you follow a URL after inspecting it Never divulge personal information if you don’t trust or recognize the sender or if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the email. Genuine brands generally won’t ask you to share sensitive personal information via email. If you’ve been prompted to, investigate and contact the brand directly, rather than hitting reply Interested in learning a bit more? Click here for more information on how to identify and prevent phishing attacks.
Defense strategies for spear phishing The very nature of spear phishing attacks – low-volume, high-personalization, and often zero-payload – means that they’re even more difficult to spot and prevent than phishing attacks. Unfortunately, though, many businesses are employing the same tools and techniques to protect their employees against these more targeted variants. The problem? Impersonation can be nearly impossible for people and rule-based technology to detect when bad actors put a great deal of effort into researching their target and the people or companies they impersonate. An individual or tool would require an in-depth understanding of the minutiae of human relationships within a particular company and advanced knowledge of common impersonation techniques to detect this type of threat. That’s a tall order. While SEGs might reject or flag emails sent from well-known domain impersonations, they can struggle to detect complex variants or domain spoof. Employees – armed only with some security training at best – are then left as the last line of defense. And, with average click through rates of spear phishing attacks at 10% – this can put a business’ people, data, and systems at risk.
Machine learning to detect impersonation To manage the problem of sophisticated impersonation, businesses need to invest in machine learning (ML) tools like Tessian Defender. Trained on historical email data, Tessian Defender understands a company’s complex network of relationships and the context behind each email. This way, it’s able to detect a wide range of impersonations, from obvious payload-based attacks to subtle social-engineered ones. By analyzing hundreds of data points – from the language patterns in an email to the domain and IP address contained in the header, among others – Tessian’s explainable ML algorithms successfully prevent spear phishing attacks by flagging anomalous emails to users with clear, educational warnings. A warning will look something like this: Notice what’s been flagged as suspicious about the email: the domain, the reply-to address, and the language. The user is then empowered to make a more informed decision about how to interact with the email, and administrators have oversight into which employees are targeted by these inbound attacks and whether or not they’re heeding the warning. While Tessian Defender can and will help protect employees from spear phishing attacks and help organizations monitor trends in activity, it’s important to understand from the outset whether or not you’re an especially susceptible target.
Prevent spear phishing attacks with Tessian Defender To learn more about how organizations across industries are using Tessian Defender to prevent sophisticated, highly-targeted spear phishing attacks, read some of our customer success stories here. For more information about how Tessian can be quickly and easily deployed to Office 365, Exchange, and G-Suite to protect your people, data, and networks all without disrupting workflow or impeding on productivity, request a demo now.
Spear Phishing
Look Out for “Back to School” Scams
By Maddie Rosenthal
08 July 2020
It’s the time of year where universities are sending more emails than normal as they make preparations to welcome students back in the fall and relay updates on their plans to transition to remote learning. Staff and students need to be aware though; hackers will use this ‘back to school’ momentum and will likely be impersonating trusted universities in phishing attacks to try and steal intellectual property as well as students’ valuable personal and financial information. It is, therefore, worrying that nearly all of the top 20 US universities are potentially at risk of having their institution’s domain impersonated by scammers in phishing emails.
In fact, Tessian’s researchers reveal that 40% of the top 20 US universities are not using Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) records. And while the other universities we analysed have published a DMARC record, the DMARC policies had not been set up to ‘quarantine’ or ‘reject’ any emails from unauthorized senders using its domains. Why does this matter? Without DMARC records in place, or without having DMARC policies set at the strictest settings, hackers can easily impersonate a university’s email domain in phishing campaigns, convincing their targets that they are opening a legitimate email from a fellow student, professor or administrator at their university. From that phishing email, hackers could lure staff or students to a fake website that has been set up to steal account credentials or request that their targets send personal or financial information. Against the backdrop of “back to school” and the shift to hybrid learning environments (with some universities restricting access to campuses), it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for a university to request this information. Students, therefore, may not realise they are being scammed – especially if the email domain looks legitimate. Configuring email authentication records like DMARC, and setting policies to the strictest settings, are necessary measures for preventing attackers from directly impersonating your company’s email domain. However, organizations also need to be aware that DMARC is not a silver bullet and hackers will find ways around it.
Why isn’t DMARC enough to prevent impersonation? Firstly, DMARC records are inherently public, and an attacker can use this information to select their targets and attack methods, simply by identifying organizations without an effective DMARC record. If your company has a strict email policy in place, the attacker can still carry out an advanced spear phishing attack by registering look-a-like domains, betting on the fact that a busy employee or distracted student may miss the slight deviation from the original domain. Secondly, while your organization might have DMARC in place, your external contacts may not. This means that while your company domain is protected against direct impersonation, your employees may be vulnerable to impersonation of external contacts like partners, suppliers or government bodies. What can you do to avoid being targeted by these scams? As universities plan to welcome students back next month – and inundate inboxes with updates between now and then — it’s critical that they take action to build robust security measures that can protect their staff and students against email scams. Here are some top tips to help you avoid the back to school scams. Cybersecurity tips for universities: Assess email security policies and solutions: Are they robust enough to spot sophisticated spear phishing attacks? Enable multi-factor authentication: This easy-to-implement security precaution helps prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing systems and data in the event a password is compromised. Increase awareness: Make staff and students aware of potential scams and provide advice on what they should look out for (for example, carefully inspect deviations in the email domain and inspect URLs). Ask staff and students to report incidents: Security and IT teams have a better chance of remediating new threats and preventing future ones. Cybersecurity tips for faculty staff and students: Think before you share: Never share direct deposit details or your personal information like your Social Security number on an unfamiliar website. Think before you click: If anything seems unusual, do not follow or click links or download attachments. Verify the request: If you receive an email from your university asking for urgent action, question its legitimacy and if you’re not sure, contact the university directly to verify the request. Report threats to the university: Security and IT teams will be able to investigate incidents and take action to prevent similar threats in the future.
DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
Tessian Human Layer Security Summit: Your Questions, Answered
24 June 2020
Last week, Tessian hosted the world’s first Virtual Human Layer Security Summit and, over the course of three hours, thought leaders from some of the world’s leading organizations shared insights and advice around business continuity, cybersecurity, and what the future looks like. Throughout the Summit, we asked the audience to submit questions but, with over 1,000 people tuning in, we weren’t able to address them all. Better late than never! Here are answers to some of your most pressing questions.  Did you miss the Human Layer Security Summit? You can view each session in the playlist below and you can read the key learnings from the day here: 13 Things We Learned at Tessian Virtual Human Layer Security Summit. You can also sign-up for our newsletter to ensure you’re the first to hear about upcoming events and other relevant industry and company news. 1. What is Human Layer Security? Human Layer Security (HLS) a new category of technology that secures all human-digital interactions in the workplace. Instead of protecting networks or devices, Human Layer Security protects people (employees, contractors, customers, suppliers). Why? Because people control our most sensitive systems and data. They’re the gatekeepers of information.  Tessian’s Human Layer Security technology understands human behavior and relationships, enabling it to detect and prevent dangerous activity like data exfiltration, accidental data loss, and spear phishing attacks. Importantly, Tessian’s technology learns and adapts to how people work without getting in the way or impeding productivity. You can learn more about this new category of security in our Ultimate Guide to Human Layer Security.  2. What are some of the key risk indicators used to measure human fallibility?  In the context of email security, Tessian looks at three key human vulnerabilities:  People break the rules  People make mistakes People can be easily tricked While risk indicators vary based on the vulnerability, monitoring data handling (both physical and digital) and assessing employee’s understanding of cybersecurity best practices should help you understand how risky or at-risk a particular employee is. Read: Insider Threat Indicators: 11 Ways to Recognize an Insider Threat  For example, if someone in your HR department consistently falls for phishing scams during simulations, they’re at risk of falling for one in real-life. Likewise, if someone in your finance department doesn’t change their passwords as requested, they may be more likely to break other security rules. But, keeping track of every employee and their attitudes towards security is nearly impossible, especially in large companies. That’s why solutions like Tessian are essential.  With Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence, you’ll be able to see at a glance which employees are breaking the rules, making mistakes, and getting hacked. You’ll also be able to review historical data to see how behaviors have changed (for better or worse) in order to correct or reward individuals.  Want to learn more about how Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence helps security teams maintain visibility of the Human Layer risks in their organizations? Read our blog, which outlines use cases, benefits, and more.
3. In the context of remote-working, how does decreased focus impact security? Over the last several months, we’ve been talking a lot about remote-working and how these new set-ups can impact cybersecurity. And, while there are a lot of technical challenges to overcome – from setting up VPNs to onboarding and offboarding employees while out of the office – we can’t ignore the more human challenges. Tessian actually took a closer look at these challenges in our latest research report, The State of Data Loss Prevention 2020, and found that 91% of employees are less likely to follow safe security practices when working from home. But why?  47% said it’s because they’re distracted. And, it makes sense. When working from home, people have other responsibilities like childcare, roommates and, more often than note, they don’t have dedicated workstations like they do in their normal office environment. That means it’s easier to make mistakes. This isn’t trivial. One misdirected email could cause a data breach. It only takes one click of a mouse.  4. Does Tessian believe that employees are always trying to “get away” with something?  The short answer: absolutely not. We believe that the average employee is just trying to do their job and, if you give people the opportunity to make smart security decisions, they will. But, too often, security policies, procedures, and tech get in the way. And that’s where you run into problems.  51% of employees say security tools or software impede their productivity and a further 54% say they’ll find a workaround if security software or policies prevent them from doing their job. So, what do you do? Find a better way! Make the easiest path the most secure path.  This is a part of Tessian’s ethos. That’s why our solutions work silently in the background, have low flag rates for false positives, and reinforce security policies with contextual warnings.   5. What are some effective ways to change human behavior?  Training, a strong security culture, and tech. Importantly, you have to have all three. You have to first educate employees on why security matters for the larger organization and then explain how individual behaviors can impact its overall security posture. Of course, one training session isn’t enough to make the message stick. Security awareness training should be ongoing.  In fact, security should be baked into the overall business. That way, you create a strong security culture (which should start from the top-down) that really values and rewards secure behavior. But, even reinforcing security best practices isn’t enough. (Read our report: Why the Threat of Phishing Can’t be ‘Trained Away’.) To err is human.  Whether accidental or malicious, data loss incidents happen – even with regular training – which means your people shouldn’t be the last line of defense. Tech should be. Ideally, that tech will bolster training by reinforcing policies and procedures.  Tessian does this via contextual warnings that empower the employee to make his or her own decision, while also giving security teams full oversight.
6. How can you teach people outside of the cybersecurity team how to spot phishing emails and other social engineering attacks?  As we’ve said, the average employee just wants to do their job. They don’t want to be a security expert. That’s why it’s so important to teach people about security risks in terms they understand and care about. We’ve found that one of the best ways to teach employees how to spot phishing emails is to use consumer examples. For example, stimulus check scams, Tax Day scams, and Census scams.  Once you have several examples, make sure you point out what’s suspicious about the email and what to do if and when an employee receives one. If you work in a highly-targeted industry, make sure you reinforce frequent training with posters, PDFs, and other resources. We put together a guide – including examples – for COVID-19 attacks, which you can download at the bottom of this blog: Coronavirus and Cybersecurity: how to Stay Safe From Phishing Attacks. Feel free to share it with your employees!  7. What is your advice for a Cybersecurity Master’s student looking to explore the job sector? There is no right (or wrong) way to break into the industry. Cybersecurity is incredibly diverse and no one job, company, or project is the same. While you’re in school, get as much work experience as you can to find out what really ignites your passion. But, don’t take our word for it! Check out the profiles of over a dozen cybersecurity professionals on our blog. Or, read our report, Opportunity in Cybersecurity 2020, for an overview of the industry and what it has to offer new entrants.  Oh, and be sure to check out our open roles, too. Do you have more questions about Tessian or cybersecurity? Email [email protected] and we’ll get back to you. You can also book a demo to see how Tessian’s solutions can help prevent data loss incidents in your organization.
Customer Stories DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
13 Things We Learned at Tessian Virtual Human Layer Security Summit
18 June 2020
Tessian’s Virtual Human Layer Security Summit was an incredible success thanks to our partners, speakers, and – of course – all of those who attended. Over 1,000 security, IT, compliance, business, and HR professionals watched as we explored how business models have changed, what these changes mean for all of us, and what to expect over the next several months. If you weren’t able to tune into the Summit yesterday, don’t worry! You can watch the full video below or access it on-demand. We’ve summarized some of the key points into relevant and actionable advice. Share these with your co-workers, share them on social media, or bookmark this blog for yourself. Here’s what we learned at Tessian Virtual Human Layer Security Summit.
1. We must treat our employees with empathy and compassion.  While the event was focused on cybersecurity and tech, one of the most important takeaways from the day is about being human. The Summit kicked off with an important reminder from Bobby Ford, Vice President and Global CISO at Unilever: “We’re not just working from home, we’re working from home during a crisis.” While – yes – we’re all trying to conduct “business as usual”, all of us are dealing with unique challenges. Many parents have suddenly taken on the roles of teachers, and living rooms have been transformed into makeshift co-working spaces for partners and roommates. And this doesn’t even account for the emotional stress of a global pandemic and current social and political unrest.  There’s a lot to navigate, process, and overcome, and many of us are distracted, stressed, and anxious. And that’s okay. As leaders and as humans, we have to be empathetic and compassionate. We have to take the mental wellbeing of our employees seriously and give them the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive, wherever they’re working.
2. The secure thing to do should be the easiest thing to do.  Let’s face it. Security isn’t the average employee’s top priority. They just want to do their job. Over half (54%) of employees say they’ll find a workaround if security software or policies make it difficult or prevent them from doing their job.  That’s why it’s so important that we implement policies, procedures, and tech that’s frictionless.  Bobby put this into perspective with an example from his own life.  When you’re a parent helping your son or daughter learn how to walk, what do you do? Child-proof the house and get outta the way! That’s what we need to be doing as security leaders. Make sure the most secure path is the path of least resistance, whether that’s ensuring your employees have a secure way to print and dispose of documents or implementing flexible BYOD policies.  3. Detection and prevention alone aren’t enough.  We all work hard to detect and prevent both inbound and outbound threats. And, while even that isn’t always easy, that’s not our only job. We also have to have to maintain visibility of risks, manage teams that are often thinly stretched, move quickly from investigation to remediation, and communicate threats to executive teams.  Almost impossible, right? Not anymore.  Tessian’s Group Product Manager, Harry Wetherald and Product Marketing Manager, Shanthi Shambathkumar, announced some very exciting news during the Summit: the launch of Human Layer Security Intelligence. With HLS Intelligence, security leaders can now predict, prevent, and protect against threats with zero manual investigation. That means you can continuously and proactively downtrend risks in your organization. Want to learn more? We outline all the benefits of Human Layer Security Intelligence and explore use cases on our blog: Introducing Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence. 4. Executive teams must invest in security now.  While cybersecurity has historically been a siloed department, it’s becoming more and more integrated with overall business functions. In fact, it can actually be a business enabler and a unique selling point for customers and prospects.  But, only if your organization is secure. And, as Clive Novis, Chief IT Risk Officer at Investec pointed out, it takes a village to ensure data is protected which means cybersecurity initiatives must get support from senior executives first. During the customer panel discussion, he said “The tone is set from the top in terms of the security culture. They help ensure not only that controls are effective, but that those controls are consistent across the globe.” Needless to say, this is more important now than ever. As we continue to adapt to new remote and hybrid working structures, many of us are introducing new policies and solutions and we need buy-in across departments for these policies and solutions to work. 5. Email is the #1 threat vector.  Over the last few months, we’ve heard a lot about the dangers of Zoombombing. But, we’ve heard even more about COVID-19 themed phishing attacks, Tax Day scams, and 2020 Census scams. (Jump to #7 for more information.) With that said, email is the threat vector most security and IT leaders are concerned about.
It makes sense. Over 124 billion business emails are sent and received every day and employees spend 40% of their time on email sharing memos, spreadsheets, invoices, and other sensitive information and unstructured data. It’s a gold mine. The bottom line: We need to be leveling up our DLP efforts on email. 6. Security incidents are happening up to 38x more than IT leaders currently estimate.  During the Summit, Tessian Co-founder and CEO Tim Sadler presented some of the key findings from our most recent report The State of Data Loss Prevention 2020. Our research reveals that data loss on email is a bigger problem than most realize, that remote-working brings new challenges around DLP, and that the solutions currently deemed most effective may actually be the least. While we addressed the frequency of misdirected emails and malicious data exfiltration, one of the most startling facts involves employees sending company data to personal email accounts.  At Tessian, we call these unauthorized emails, and according to our platform data, they’re being sent 27,500 times a year in organizations with 1,000 employees. Meanwhile, IT leaders estimate just 720 are sent. That’s a big difference and highlights the need for effective data loss prevention solutions.  Follow the links to learn more about how Tessian detects and prevents accidental data loss and data exfiltration attempts.  7. Phishing is still a big problem.  While phishing has always been a problem for organizations, we’ve seen a marked spike in incidents over the last few months. And it’s not just Tessian who has taken note. Elvis Chan, Supervisory Special Agent, National Security at the FBI has, too.  For him, phishing is the biggest risk.
What does this mean for you? Continue educating your employees about the risks associated with phishing and how to spot these attacks and ensure they’re protected with tech.  8. Security policies don’t stick unless they’re continuously reinforced.  We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: The average employee doesn’t care about security as much as you do. They just want to do their job. That means we have to continuously reinforce security policies, especially now that workforces are distributed.  But, repetition isn’t enough.  We have to communicate in terms our employees understand. Angela Henry, Business Information Security Officer at Rand Merchant Bank, recommends educating employees on business data privacy best practice alongside consumer data privacy best practice. Share tips that are relevant to their personal lives. Offer advice on how to keep their children secure online. Prepare resources around how to stay safe on e-commerce sites. Not only does this help foster a positive security culture in the office, but it also helps employees stay safe and secure at home.  9. …And policies aren’t effective unless they’re bolstered by technology.  While educating employees about policies is a vital part of any security strategy, it isn’t enough to prevent inbound and outbound threats and subsequent data breaches.  After all, we’re only human. We break the rules, make mistakes, and can be easily tricked. In fact, 44% of breaches are caused by human error. Elvis summed it up nicely when he said, “Even if we’re at technology 5.0, we’re still at human being 1.0.”  So, what do we do? Garrett recommends bolstering training with technology to ensure that people aren’t the last line of defense, saying “My ultimate view is that user awareness training is fine but – in mathematical terms – it’s necessary but not sufficient. I think it needs to be used in conjunction with other tools.” 10. Security needs diversity to thrive.  Throughout the Human Layer Security Summit, we talked a lot about security pre- and post-pandemic. But, Merrit Baer, Principal Security Architect at Amazon Web Services pointed out something else we shouldn’t forget.
She’s right. Cybersecurity needs diversity to thrive.  This diversity isn’t limited to gender or ethnic diversity. The field is wide open for a range of educational and professional backgrounds, from psychology majors to business analysts and just about everything in between.  You can read more about the opportunities available in cybersecurity in our report Opportunity in Cybersecurity 2020. 11. Remote working isn’t temporary. According to a recent poll by 451 Research, 38% of businesses expect work-from-home strategies will continue post-pandemic. And, when you consider companies like Facebook have already announced they’re permanently embracing remote-work, we should expect more to follow. The point? We should equip our workforces to thrive at home and ensure that we’re maintaining a strong security culture company-wide while also supporting our employees mentally and emotionally. (See #1.)  12. …And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  There are new and perennial challenges we must overcome in order to support a full-time remote workforce, but there are a number of benefits, too. Don’t take our word for it. Stephane Kasriel, Former CEO of Upwork – a company that has maintained a hybrid remote-working structure across 500 cities for nearly a decade – offered attendees of the Summit several reasons why this is something to look forward to, not dread.  To start, remote-working enables companies to find and work with the best talent, not just local talent. Beyond that, employees have more freedom to design their lives. They can more easily balance work and life, relocate as and when they need or want to, and create environments in which they can really thrive.  13. The Secret? Adapt, adopt, evolve. Repeat.  If there’s one thing that was made clear throughout every panel discussion, fireside chat, and interview, it’s that things have changed and will continue to change. The only way to succeed is to adapt and evolve. Adopt new technologies. Embrace new ways of working. Lean on peers and professional networks for advice.  In the spirit of change, we’ve put together a list of resources that will help you navigate security and business challenges of the present and future.  Security During Uncertainty: 6 Steps Security Leaders Can Take to Reduce Risk Cyber Culture in the Time of COVID COVID-19 and the Digital Pandemic Upwork Remote Work Resources COVID-19: Real-Life Examples of Phishing Emails 13 Cybersecurity Sins When Working Remotely Advice From Security Leaders for Security Leaders: How to Navigate New Remote-Working Challenges Remote-Worker’s Guide To: Preventing Data Loss 11 Tools to Help You Stay Secure and Productive While Working Remotely Did we miss anything? Feel free to email [email protected] with your key learnings.
Data Exfiltration DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
Insider Threat Indicators: 11 Ways to Recognize an Insider Threat
By Maddie Rosenthal
12 June 2020
Detecting and preventing Insider Threats isn’t easy. Why? Because unlike external bad actors, Insiders – whether a disgruntled employee, a distracted freelancer, or a rogue business partner – have legitimate access to systems and data. That means they’re in an ideal position to exfiltrate data. So, how do you spot one? To start, you have to know what an Insider threat is and understand the different methods and motives behind these data exfiltration attempts. What is an Insider Threat? We’ve covered this in detail in this article: What is an Insider Threat? Insider Threat Definition, Examples, and Solutions. But, to summarize:
Insider Threats can be malicious or the result of negligence.  Malicious Insiders knowingly and intentionally steal data and generally do so for one of three reasons: financial incentives, a competitive edge, or because they’re dissatisfied at work. Negligent Insiders are just your average employees who have made a mistake. For example, they could send an email to the wrong person, misconfigure a system, fall for a phishing email, or lose their work device.   How often do incidents involving Insider Threats happen? More often than you might think. In fact, there’s been a 47% increase in incidents over the last two years. We discuss seven recent examples in this blog: Insider Threats: Types and Real-World Examples.   While every incident is different, there are some tell-tale signs of an Insider Threat.  Insider Threat indicators: Malicious Insiders Malicious Insiders may act suspiciously well before they actually exfiltrate any data. For example: 1. Declining performance or other signs of dissatisfaction As we’ve said, one reason why Insiders exfiltrate data is that they’re dissatisfied at work. It could be because of a poor performance appraisal, because they were denied a promotion or raise, or because of a disagreement with a co-worker or manager.  Whatever the reason, 1 in 10 Insider Threats is motivated by a grudge. Look out for a consistent or sudden decline in performance or attitude and for employees who become angry or combative. Employees who are actively looking for other jobs should also be on your radar. While they could simply be moving on to a new opportunity, they may be inclined to steal data in order to impress or bribe a new or potential employer.  Don’t believe us? 45% of employees download, save, send, or otherwise exfiltrate work-related documents before leaving a job or after being dismissed. This number nearly doubles in highly competitive industries like Financial Services and Business, Consulting, & Management.  !function(e,t,s,i){var n="InfogramEmbeds",o=e.getElementsByTagName("script"),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?"http:":"https:";if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement("script");a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,"infogram-async","//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js"); 2. Unusual working hours While passion and enthusiasm are generally considered positive attributes when talking about an employee, these can occasionally be early signs of bad intent. For example, if an employee consistently volunteers for extra work, regularly works in the office late, comes in early, or attempts to perform work that’s outside of the scope of their normal duties, they could be trying to gain access to sensitive systems or data.  Then, of course, there are signs of the data exfiltration attempt itself. For example: 3. Large data transfers or downloads There are a number of ways to exfiltrate data, including email, Cloud Storage, USB sticks. In fact, 23% of insiders exfiltrate data via USBs and 24% exfiltrate data via laptops/tablets. Nevertheless email is the threat vector most IT leaders are concerned about. After all, it only takes one click to transfer dozens of files.  But, monitoring data movement is a challenge. How can you realistically monitor every email sent and received within your organization? With Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence, it’s easy.  Security, IT, and compliance leaders can get detailed insights around employee behavior in a single click. No manual investigation required. 
4. Multiple failed logins (or other abnormal login activity) Whether it’s an employee trying to access networks or systems they don’t have access to or an employee with legitimate access logging in more frequently than usual, login activity can offer security teams clues about Malicious Insiders. Certainly the employee could simply be curious and may even be going above and beyond to get their job done, but these behaviors could also be indicative of nefarious intent and should be investigated.  5. Upgraded privileges or sharing access When someone is promoted or there’s some other shift in the structure of an organization, it makes sense that access to systems and data might change. But, what about when someone’s privileges or access are escalated without a clear reason why? It could be an administrator granting him or herself more privileged access or it could be a team effort. For example, an administrator could be bribed to upgrade another employee’s access. Both are signs of a Malicious Insider. Finally, there are signs that the Insider has successfully exfiltrated data or is still successfully exfiltrating data. For example: 6. Unexpected changes in financial circumstances 86% of breaches are financially motivated.  Whether it’s a list of customer email addresses being sold on the Dark Web or trade secrets being sold to a competitor, data is valuable currency. So, if you hear of or notice an employee suddenly and unexpectedly paying off debt or making expensive purchases, you may need to investigate the source of the additional income. It could be a sign that they’re profiting from company or customer data. 7. Consistent (and unusual) overseas travel Like many of the other indicators on this list, there could be a perfectly good reason why an employee travels overseas. He or she could be going on vacation, visiting friends or family, or may be traveling for work. But, as we’ve seen, it could also be a sign of corporate or foreign espionage. Case in point: A former engineer at a massive aerospace company frequently traveled to China, claiming he was lecturing. In reality, he was acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China and was selling trade secrets. This went on for nearly 30 years before he was caught and later convicted.  Insider Threat indicators: Negligent Insiders While certain behaviors exhibited by Malicious Insiders may set off alarm bells for security teams before exfiltration attempts occur, Negligent Insiders can be harder to preempt.  Nonetheless, there are four key things to look out for. 8. Failure to comply with basic security policies Whether it’s consistently using weak passwords, refusing to enable 2FA, or frequently downloading tools or software that haven’t been approved by security teams, an employee who disregards security policies could be more likely to accidentally exfiltrate data than one who consistently plays by the book.  That’s why reminding employees of existing policies and procedures is so important. 9. Low engagement in security awareness training Most employees (and even some security leaders!) would agree that security awareness training is “boring”. And, while that may be the case, training is absolutely essential. It could be training around how to spot a phish (see below) or training around new and existing compliance standards or data privacy laws. Employees who either don’t attend training at all or who perform poorly on assessments related to that training should be closely monitored and be re-targeted with tailored programs. You can read more about how to up-level your training and create a positive security culture here. 10. History of falling for phishing attacks Phishing and other social engineering attacks are designed for one of three reasons: to extract sensitive information or credentials, to install malware onto a network, or to initiate a wire transfer. If the attack is successful – meaning the target (an employee) falls for the scam – there could be serious consequences.  That means any employee who falls for a scam should be reminded of phishing tools and techniques and may need to be more closely monitored. 11. General carelessness or haste Accidents happen. Whether it’s firing off an email to the wrong person or accidentally leaving a computer unblocked, we all make mistakes. Nonetheless, they aren’t trivial and any employee who consistently makes mistakes will need to be reminded of security best practices and may, in some cases, need to be monitored with more stringent policies.  How can you detect and prevent Insider Threats?  When it comes to detecting and preventing Insider Threats, there are a number of solutions, including: Training Physical and Digital Monitoring  DLP tools and software  Importantly, all of these have a place in security strategies. Training should be used to reinforce existing policies, especially for those employees who consistently break the rules or make mistakes.  Security teams should be diligent in their physical and digital data monitoring and should always look out for the above warning signs. And DLP tools like rule-based solutions, endpoint scanning, firewalls, and anti-phishing software do, in some instances, help curb the problem of data loss. But, as we’ve said, incidents involving Insider Threats are on the rise which means security stacks are missing something. What they’re missing is protection for their people and at Tessian, we call it Human Layer Security. How does Tessian prevent Insider Threats? Tessian turns an organization’s email data into its best defense against inbound and outbound email security threats. Powered by machine learning, our Human Layer Security technology understands human behavior and relationships, enabling it to automatically detect and prevent anomalous and dangerous activity. Tessian Enforcer detects and prevents data exfiltration attempts Tessian Guardian detects and prevents misdirected emails Tessian Defender detects and prevents spear phishing attacks Importantly, Tessian’s technology automatically updates its understanding of human behavior and evolving relationships through continuous analysis and learning of the organization’s email network. Oh, and it works silently in the background, meaning employees can do their jobs without security getting in the way.  Interested in learning more about how Tessian can help prevent Insider Threats in your organization? You can read some of our customer stories here or book a demo. 
Data Exfiltration DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
Introducing Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence
By Ed Bishop
11 June 2020
Attention Security, Compliance. and IT leaders: You can now continuously and proactively downtrend Human Layer risks in your organization with zero manual investigation. How? With Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence.
Why did Tessian create Human Layer Security Intelligence? 88% of data breaches are caused by human error.  To combat that, Tessian built, created, and developed Defender to prevent spear phishing, Business Email Compromise, and other targeted impersonation attacks; Guardian to prevent accidental data loss; and Enforcer to prevent data exfiltration. But, detection and prevention are only one part of the solution. To be truly effective, solutions have to proactively and consistently improve an organization’s broader security posture.  Security leaders should be able to: Comprehensively understand the risks within their organization Benchmark those risks against peers Reduce the burden of manual investigation, especially for thinly-stretched teams  Move swiftly from investigation to remediation Easily view the outcome of remediation efforts to understand the ROI on security products   Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence does all of the above.  We provide our customers with real-time insights into risks on email and give security teams the tools they need to downtrend those risks. 
What are the key benefits of Human Layer Security Intelligence? We’ve already mentioned some of the key challenges that security, compliance, and IT leaders are up against. So, how does Human Layer Security Intelligence make your jobs easier? Predict. Track and compare trends, preempt incidents, and influence employee behavior to improve overall security posture.
Improving security visibility is key.  With HLS Intelligence, Tessian customers can easily and automatically get detailed insights into inbound and outbound security threats and employee actions.  Why does this matter? It allows security leaders to know precisely where to focus their efforts and which corrective actions to take in order to best allocate their resources.  For example, with clear visibility of employee behavior, it will be easy to spot those employees who frequently attempt to send company data to their personal email accounts to work from home. That way, security teams can then offer additional, targeted training and issue helpful reminders of existing security policies. Beyond that, customers will also be able to benchmark their risk levels against industry peers. This will help organizations identify strengths and successes and help highlight how and where they can improve their security posture.  Prevent. Investigate and communicate risks quickly and easily with detailed event threat breakdowns.
Most solutions are a blackbox when it comes to understanding the threats detected. And, without knowing the “who, what, when, and why” behind security events, mitigation can be difficult.  In an effort to pin down the “who, what, when, and why”, security and IT teams spend countless hours aggregating data, analyzing data, and investigating incidents. But, this is a slow, manual process which means remedial response times are often longer than they should be. Not with Tessian’s HLS Intelligence.  HLS Intelligence offers a curated list of high priority events so security leaders can immediately zero in on those that are most critical. No manual investigation required.  It’s simple: View detailed breakdowns and automated analysis of security events Take immediate action Generate reports with a single click to communicate detected and prevented risks to stakeholders.  Protect. Take the burden out of remediation with robust mitigation tools. 
While the goal is to prevent incidents from happening in the first place, robust mitigation tools are an essential part of any security solution.  With email quarantine and post-delivery protection like bulk email removal and single-click clawback, it’s easier than ever for security teams to take action.  And, with shared threat intelligence across the entire Tessian ecosystem, machine learning models automatically update and protect all Tessian Defender customers from all blocked domains. That means Tessian customers automatically benefit from Tessian’s network effect and new threats can be prevented before they’re even seen in your environment. How Can I Use Human Layer Security Intelligence? The benefits of Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence are best understood in the context of real situations. So, let’s look at three example use cases. Use Case #1: Thwart burst attack campaigns and block COVID-19-related impersonation domains.  Several employees receive an email that appears to be from a health organization with advice around COVID-19. The email automatically triggers a warning advising employees that the email is suspicious based off of the content and sender information.  Simultaneously, you’re alerted of the burst attack and are able to first delete the email from user inboxes and then block the domain. Each of these two actions requires a single click. But, it’s not just your organization that’s protected from the threat. All Tessian customers will benefit as the domain is automatically blocked across the Tessian ecosystem. Use Case #2: Reduce data loss and increase secure behavior. In reviewing outbound events, you notice two employees are frequently sending emails with attachments to their personal accounts. When presented with a warning that explains why the action is being flagged as suspicious, they opt to send the email anyway. Why? Because these exfiltration attempts aren’t intentionally malicious, they’re simply trying to ensure they have access to the documents they need to work, wherever they are.  Instead of implementing a blanket rule that blocks all emails to freemail accounts across the company, you can take a more targeted approach. You can use this as an opportunity to reinforce security awareness training and in-house policies and explain why the email is considered unauthorized despite the employees’ good intentions.  You can also offer alternatives that would enable the employees to access relevant documents without having to email attachments to themselves. Use Case #3: Predict employee exits and prevent data exfiltration. In reviewing outbound events, you notice a spike in data exfiltration attempts by an employee. In the last week, he’s sent upwards of 20 attachments to a recipient he has no previous email history with. With this information in mind, you approach his line manager and find out that two weeks ago, the employee was denied a promotion and subsequent raise. You now have oversight of the “who, what, why, and when”.  This employee is planning on resigning and is taking company data with him. To prevent any further data exfiltration attempts, you can create custom filters specifically for that user, including customized warning messages or you could create a filter that would automatically block any future exfiltration attempts. For example, you could block email communications containing attachments to specific a domain or block emails containing attachments altogether, depending on the severity of the previous incidents.  Learn more Interested in learning more about Tessian Human Layer Security Intelligence and how it can help you strengthen your defense against human error on email? Get in touch with your Customer Success contact. Not yet a Tessian customer? Book a demo! 
Compliance Data Exfiltration DLP Human Layer Security Spear Phishing
13 Cybersecurity Sins When Working Remotely
By Maddie Rosenthal
27 May 2020
Over the last eight weeks, security vendors, thought leaders, and even mainstream media have been offering employees advice on how to stay secure and productive while working from home. And, why wouldn’t they? The transition from office-to-home has been both sudden and challenging and the risks associated with data loss haven’t disappeared just because the perimeter has. At Tessian, we’ve created (and have been consistently updating) our own remote-working content hub filled with actionable advice for security, IT, and compliance professionals as well as employees. While you can find the individual articles below, we thought we’d combine all of the tips we’ve shared over the last two months into one easy-to-read article. Advice from Security Leaders for Security Leaders: How to Navigate New Remote-Working Challenges Ultimate Guide to Staying Secure While Working Remotely  Remote Worker’s Guide to: Preventing Data Loss Remote Worker’s Guide to: BYOD Policies  11 Tools to Help You Stay Secure and Productive While Working Remotely  Here are 13 things you shouldn’t do when working remotely from a cybersecurity perspective.  1. Don’t send company data to your personal email accounts. As many organizations have had to adopt new tools and systems like VPNs and Cloud Storage on the fly, some employees may have had to resort to sending company data to their personal email accounts in order to continue doing their job.  We understand that doing so may have been viewed at the “only option”, but it’s important to note that this is not wise from a security perspective. While we’ve written about this in detail on our blog The Dark Side of Sending Work Emails “Home”, the short-and-sweet version is this: Personal email accounts are less secure and more likely to be compromised than work email accounts. Why? Read point #5 to find out.  2. Don’t share Zoom links or Meeting IDs.  Zoom – like so many other remote-working tools – is enabling workforces around the world to continue collaborating despite being out-of-office. But, as we highlighted in our Ultimate Guide to Staying Secure While Working Remotely, there are precautions you must take in order to prevent attackers from infiltrating your calls. While there are plenty of lists circulating with top tips around using Zoom, the most important piece of advice we can offer is to not share your Zoom Meeting ID (or link) with anyone you don’t work with directly or otherwise trust.  Importantly, this Meeting ID appears at the top of your conference window, which means if you share a screenshot of your call, anyone who sees the screenshot can access this meeting. If you want to be proactive in locking down your Zoom calls, you should also ensure all of your meetings require a password to join. 3. Don’t ignore warnings from IT and security teams or other authoritative sources.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve seen a spike in phishing attacks. Why? Because hackers tend to take advantage of emergencies, times of general uncertainty, and key calendar moments. IT and security teams and even organizations like the FBI have been working hard to communicate these threats and how to avoid them. But – importantly – these warnings are useless unless employees heed the advice.  Whether it’s an email outlining how to spot a phishing email or an announcement from your line manager about updating your iOS, employees should take warnings seriously and take action immediately.  4. Don’t work off of personal devices.  While it may seem harmless, using your personal devices – whether it’s a laptop, desktop computer, mobile device, or tablet – for work-related activities creates big security risks. To start, your personal devices won’t be configured with the same security software as your work device.  Whether it’s the protection offered by a simple firewall or antivirus software, you and your data are more secure when working on company-sanctioned devices. Note: Some organizations have adopted more flexible BYOD policies. You can learn how to combat the security risks associated with these policies on our blog. 5. Don’t action email requests without double-checking their legitimacy.  Phishing and other social engineering attacks are designed for one of three reasons: to extract sensitive information or credentials, to install malware onto a network, or to initiate a wire transfer. To avoid falling victim to one of these scams and potentially actioning a request that isn’t legitimate, make sure you double-check that the person making the request is who they say they are.  For example, if your CEO asks you to change an account number on an invoice, contact him or her directly – via phone call, text, Slack or a separate email – before doing so. Likewise, if someone in HR asks you to share any credentialsor other personal information, get in touch with them via phone or a separate email thread before responding.  6. Don’t use weak passwords.  Many organizations have strict password policies, including the enforcement of multi-factor authentication. It makes sense. If a bad actor gained access to your applications – whether it’s your email account or collaboration tools – they’ll have free rein over your most sensitive systems and data.  If your organization doesn’t have any policies in place, our advice is to use 6-digit PINs or complex swipe codes on mobile devices and strong passwords that utilize numbers, letters, and characters for laptops and other log-ins.  If you’re having trouble managing your passwords, discuss the use of a password manager with your IT department. 7. Don’t lose touch with your IT or security teams.  Communication – especially during periods of transition and disruption- is key.  If you’re unsure about any security policies or procedures, how to use your personal device securely, or if you believe your device or network has been compromised in any way, don’t be afraid to communicate with your IT and security teams. That’s what they’re there for. Moreover, the more information they have and the sooner they have it, the better equipped they are to keep you and your devices protected.  8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi or mobile hotspots.  Given the digital transformation, most of us rely on internet access to do our jobs. Unfortunately, we can’t connect to just any network.  The open nature of public Wi-Fi means your laptop or other device could be accessible to opportunistic hackers. Likewise, if a phone is being used as a hotspot and has already been compromised by an attacker, it’s possible it could be used to pivot to the corporate network. With that said, you should only use networks you’re absolutely confident are secure.  9. Don’t download new tools or software without approval.  IT and security teams have processes in place that help them identify which applications are and aren’t in compliance with their data and privacy protection criteria. That means that if they haven’t approved the use of a certain tool, it probably isn’t safe in their opinion. Even if a certain tool makes your job easier to do, you shouldn’t download – or even use – tools or software without express permission to use them. Whether it’s a design, writing, or project management tool, you must communicate with your in-house teams before clicking “download”.  10. Don’t leave work devices or documents in plain sight.  Your devices are gateways to sensitive information. While we’ve already covered the importance of password-protecting these devices, preventing them from being stolen is vital, too.  Avoid leaving laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and documents containing sensitive company or client information in plain sight, such as near windows at home or on a passenger seat if traveling by car. This will help prevent opportunistic theft.  Any organization that has a remote-working policy in place should also provide employees with privacy screens for their laptops, and encourage employees to always work in positions that minimize line-of-sight views of their screens by others. This has the added benefit of showing clients or other professional contacts that the business takes security seriously. 11. Don’t give hackers the information they need to execute social engineering attacks.  When planning a spear phishing attack – a type of phishing attack that is targeted at a specific individual or small set of individuals – an attacker will try to gather as much open-source intelligence about their target as they can in order to make the email as believable as possible.  Don’t make it easier for them by sharing personal information on OOO messages or on social media like LinkedIn. This includes phone numbers, alternative email addresses, travel plans, details about company structure and reporting lines, and other data points.  12. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about security policies and procedures.  When working from home or otherwise outside of the office, you have much more autonomy. But that doesn’t mean you should disregard the processes and policies your organization has in place. And, part of following processes and policies is understanding them in the first place. IT and security teams are there to help you. If anything is unclear, send them an email, pick up the phone, or file a request.   13. Don’t forget the basics of security best practice.  While we’ve offered plenty of advice that’s specific to remote-working, following general security best practices will help prevent security incidents, too.  Most employees receive annual security training or, at the very least, had some security training during their onboarding process. If you didn’t, below are some of the basics. Don’t reuse passwords. Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Stay up-to-date on compliance standards and regulations specific to your industry. Report incidents of theft. Don’t share sensitive company information with people outside of your organization.  If any of the above are unclear, refer back to point #7. Ask your IT, security, or HR teams. Communication is key! What’s next? While most organizations and individuals have started to adjust to “the new normal”, it’s important to remember that, eventually, some of us will move back to our office environments. The above tips are relevant wherever you’re working, whether that’s at home, from a cafe, on public transport, or at your desk in the office. Looking for more insights on what\s next in this new world of work? We’re hosting our first virtual Human Layer Security Summit on June 18. Find out more – including the agenda for the day – here. 
Spear Phishing
Phishing in Retail: Cybercriminals Follow The Money
07 May 2020
Retailers have always been a lucrative target for cybercriminals and their phishing scams — even more so during peak shopping times. The thing is, cybercriminals always follow the money and opportunistic hackers will find ways to cash in on spikes in consumers’ spending.  During the coronavirus lockdown, for example, global payments systems provider ACI Worldwide found that online sales for retailers dramatically increased. It reported a 74% growth in average transaction volumes in March 2020, compared to the same period the year before. However, while they saw an increase in online sales, they also saw a spike in fraudulent activity and Covid-19 phishing scams.  We see a similar trend around retailers’ busiest shopping period of the year – Black Friday.  A golden opportunity for fraudsters US shoppers spent a record $7.4bn on Black Friday in 2019, and a further $9.2bn on Cyber Monday. In the UK, Barclaycard reported that transaction value was up 16.5% in 2019, compared to Black Friday in 2018. A golden opportunity for fraudsters. When we surveyed IT decision makers at UK and US retailers, the majority told us the number of number of phishing attacks their company receives during the Black Friday weekend spikes. In fact, respondents said they receive more phishing attacks in the last three months of the year – in the lead up to the holidays – compared to the rest of the year. Consequently, one in five IT decision makers told us that phishing poses the greatest threat to their retail organization during peak shopping times. They identified phishing as a bigger threat to their business than ransomware or Point of Sale (PoS) attacks. Their reasons? They aren’t confident that their staff will be able to identify the scams that land in their inbox during these busier periods, namely because people are receiving more emails at this time and are more distracted. A third of IT decision makers in retail also told us that phishing emails are, simply, becoming harder to spot. The high price of a phishing attack The devastating consequences of falling for a phishing attack are troubling the IT leaders we surveyed. Over a third said financial damage would have the greatest impact to their business following a successful phishing attack. It’s not surprising. Today, the average cost of a phishing attack on a mid-size company is $1.6 million. For small businesses, the cost of a cyber attack stands at just over $53,000 – a devastating blow for any small retailer and one that could put them out of business. More sales, more mistakes The people-heavy nature of the retail industry is something cybercriminals prey on. Using sophisticated social engineering techniques and clever impersonation tactics, they’re counting on people making a mistake and falling for their scams.  Sadly, during busy shopping periods, mistakes are likely to happen. When faced with hundreds of orders, thousands of customers to respond to, and overwhelming sales targets, cybersecurity is rarely front of mind as people just focus on getting their jobs done. In these situations, you can’t expect people to accurately spot a phishing scam every time. New solutions needed Retailers, therefore, need to consider how they can protect their people from the growing number of phishing scams plaguing the industry — beyond training and awareness. In our report – Cashing In: How Hackers Target Retailers with Phishing Attacks – we look into the biggest threats IT leaders in the retail sector face, reveal the gaps in security that need addressing, and explain how to best protect people on email. 
Spear Phishing
How to Avoid the PPP Scams Targeting Small Businesses
By Maddie Rosenthal
01 May 2020
On April 27, the U.S government’s coronavirus relief fund for small businesses – the Payroll Protection Program – resumed lending, after an additional $320 billion in funding was authorized to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll. The program will provide much needed relief for small businesses, but it could also provide cybercriminals with another prime opportunity to cash in on Covid-19 related schemes. Over the last month, Tessian has identified ways in which criminals have taken advantage of the global pandemic to make their scams more effective – from impersonating remote working and collaboration tools to tricking people into clicking onto fake stimulus check domains.  We are now warning small businesses of the PPP and CARES Act scams that they could face.  Tessian’s latest research reveals that 645 domains related to the PPP were registered between March 30 and April 20, with the majority of the domains being registered in the week following the US government’s announcement on March 31.  While 85% of the domains are offline, it’s unclear how long they will remain offline for. Of the newly registered domains that are currently live: 35% were registered as multiple domains that lead users to the same website. The 31 of the grouped domains only lead people to eight websites. 28% were from different loan providers that have a separate PPP presence through an online form. Although these may not all be spammy, it’s important for people to be wary of what they’re signing up for, what information they’re sharing and any associated costs. 24% were law firms and consultants offering their services. Around 10% were “advisory,” giving businesses information about PPP in a blog style without any notable Call To Action or service. Worryingly, a recent survey by IBM X-Force found that only 14% of small business owners say they are very knowledgeable about how to access the SBA’s loan relief program. Cybercriminals will use this to their advantage, targeting those individuals seeking more information or guidance on the PPP. And although not every newly registered PPP domain may be malicious, it’s possible that these websites could be set up to trick people into sharing money, credentials or personal information.  Small businesses have been prime targets throughout the global pandemic. We’ve seen a number of spam campaigns whereby hackers impersonate the Small Business Administration (SBA) or well-respected banks to entice people into opening malicious attachments or sharing sensitive information. At this time, we urge small business owners and staff to think twice about what they share online and question the legitimacy of the emails they receive.  Our advice to avoiding the PPP scams: Be cautious about sharing personal information online. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Understand the Call To Action on these PPP-related sites and emails you receive from them asking for urgent action or to click links.  Make sure any sites offering consultancy services are legitimate before sharing information or money. Always check the URL and, if you’re still not sure, verify by calling the company directly. Never share direct deposit details or your Social Security number on an unfamiliar website. Always use different passwords when setting up new accounts on websites. And enable two-factor authentication on all the services that you use.
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