Phishing Attacks in B2B: Recognizing Deceptive Tactics
In the dynamic realm of B2B (Business-to-Business) interactions, phishing attacks are a serious and constant threat. They’re becoming more sophisticated and frequent and affect not only businesses but also individuals (clients).
According to recent statistics, cybercriminals send around 3.4 billion phishing emails every day. Additionally, 83% of all companies across the globe fall victim to a phishing attack each year. That’s pretty much every four out of five businesses facing the heat.
The best way to combat these attacks is to understand the tactics and techniques cybercriminals employ to carry them out. That’s where this guide comes into place.
It delves into the intricacies of phishing in the B2B domain, providing insights and strategies to empower businesses in safeguarding against these cyberattacks.
What is a Phishing Attack?
Definition for Google Snippet: Phishing is a cybersecurity attack where malicious online actors use social engineering tactics to assume false identities. They aim to extract sensitive information, such as financial details and login credentials, through email, SMS text messages, and/or social networks.
When individuals unsuspectingly share this information, cybercriminals exploit it for financial gain, identity theft, or unauthorized entry into business networks.
Types and Techniques of Phishing Attacks
Cybercriminals use multiple types of phishing attacks, each with its own objectives and tactics, to steal sensitive business data.
Deceptive phishing, commonly known as email phishing, stands as one of the most common forms of phishing attacks, constituting 91% of all cyberattacks. In this tactic, cybercriminals assume the identity of a familiar sender to extract sensitive data.
To shield your business from deceptive phishing, it’s vital to educate your team(s) and help them use the email itself as a weapon against identity fraud. Encourage them to inspect not only the sender’s name but also the email address.
Generic greetings and instances of unprofessional grammar and spelling serve as red flags. You can also use a third-party fraud prevention service that scores email addresses depending on these key metrics.
A spear-phishing attack is a very targeted form of deceptive phishing, and organizations, on average, receive 5 such attacks daily. To understand this type of attack, consider a scenario where a cybercriminal targets a high-ranking executive within a company.
The attacker uses public information to understand the executive’s role, recent business activities, and even upcoming projects. Using this knowledge, they craft a highly personalized email, appearing to be from a trusted B2B business partner.
The email, addressing the executive by name and referencing specific projects, may request sensitive information like financial reports or login credentials under the guise of urgent collaboration. It can increase the likelihood of the executive unknowingly giving up confidential information.
CEO fraud, also called BEC (Business Email Compromise), occurs when a scammer impersonates a company’s CEO and targets employees typically in finance or accounting teams. The objective of this identity fraud is to manipulate the recipient into transferring funds to a fraudulent account.
These phishing scams often focus on lower-level employees, so the emails are less personalized and originate from fake email addresses. However, the financial impacts of CEO fraud can be substantial and can cost businesses a whole lot of money.
Important Note: Whaling is another version of CEO fraud, in which cybercriminals target senior executives, such as CFOs, CEOs, and COOs, instead of lower-level employees.
Fake Invoice Scams
Financial transactions are prime targets of cybercriminals in the realm of B2B interactions. One commonly used tactic to deceive customers/clients involves the use of fake invoices.
In this scheme, hackers send deceptive invoices appearing as trustworthy partners or vendors, aiming to redirect funds into their own accounts.
These deceptive invoices are crafted carefully to look real, with accurate details such as company names, logos, and purchase order numbers.
Vishing, short for “voice phishing”, involves cybercriminals attempting phishing over the phone. In this scam, the hacker calls the target’s phone, typically clients, to trick them into sharing personal or financial information.
To appear trustworthy, scammers even alter their phone numbers to seem like they’re calling from a reputable company, which makes it challenging to report them.
These scams rely on social engineering tactics to create a false sense of urgency or fear and manipulate targets into revealing sensitive information.
Pharming is an advanced form of phishing attack in which scammers redirect their targets to a fake site. This is typically achieved using cache poisoning by targeting the DNS (Domain Name System), which is responsible for converting website names to IP addresses.
The scammers change the IP address linked to a website name, redirecting the victim to a malicious website. Any information shared on that site is then vulnerable to unauthorized access and potential theft and misuse.
Angler phishing is a recent variation of traditional phishing attacks. In this method, scammers identify targets on social media, especially those publicly complaining about a reputable B2B company.
The attacker then poses as a customer service account from that company and tries to deceive the complainant into providing access to personal data or account credentials.
In this type of phishing attack, Scammers target businesses with emails that seem secure because they have “HTTPS” in the URL. Despite this appearance of safety, these links lead to malicious/fake websites.
For example, a finance employee of a company gets an urgent email that appears to be from a trusted partner containing a link to a secure website for an invoice.
The pressure to pay quickly might lead them to click the link and enter sensitive payment info on what seems like a safe site. Doing so will make them fall victim to an HTTPS phishing attack.
Shockingly, more than 50% of phishing websites use both HTTPS and the padlock icon. It shows the need to be extra cautious in B2B communications to avoid these deceptive tactics.
Recognizing Deceptive Phishing Attacks
Recognizing deceptive phishing attacks is a crucial skill in safeguarding against evolving cyber threats.
Here’s a list of key indicators that can help you identify and prevent potential phishing attempts.
- Suspicious Sender: Phishing attackers use email addresses that resemble legitimate domains but usually have slight variations or misspelled characters. So, be cautious of emails from unfamiliar senders or addresses that deviate from official domains.
- Poor Grammar/Spelling: Emails from cybercriminals can also contain language errors, including grammar and spelling mistakes. Legitimate organizations maintain high-quality communication, so noticing these errors can help you identify potential phishing attempts.
- Urgency and Threats: It’s common for a reader to feel a sense of urgency in phishing emails, as they require immediate action. They also contain threats of account suspension, financial penalties, or data loss in order to manipulate individuals into responding hastily. Authentic communications rarely pressure users in this manner.
- Requests for Personal Information: Phishing messages and emails also request sensitive information like passwords, social security numbers, or credit card details. Legitimate organizations avoid the transmission of such information through unsecured channels like email.
- Unexpected Attachments: It’s critically important to exercise caution when opening attachments available in emails, especially the ones received from unknown sources. That’s because cybercriminals use unexpected email attachments to deliver malware, which can lead to data theft.
- Generic Greetings: Phishing emails often use generic greetings, such as “Dear Customer,” instead of using personalized salutations, including full names. This lack of personalization is yet another red flag to consider.
Tips to Prevent Phishing Attacks
Now that you understand the tactics and techniques that cybercriminals use to carry out phishing attacks and useful methods to recognize them let’s discuss some actionable tips to prevent phishing attacks.
- Be Cautious and Vigilant: It’s important to approach each email and message with a healthy skepticism, especially if they’re from unknown sources. Think twice before clicking links or downloading attachments, and refrain from sharing sensitive information without double-checking and verifying the request’s legitimacy.
- Use MFA: MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) is one of the best ways to prevent phishing attacks. It’s an additional layer of verification, requiring a unique code sent to your mobile device (or email address) in addition to your password, which adds complexity for attackers attempting unauthorized access.
- Educate Yourself and Your Team(s): The methods and tactics employed by malicious online actors in phishing are in a constant state of evolution. To stay proactive, it’s crucial to keep yourself and your team(s) educated on the latest phishing techniques.
- Install Security Tools: Deploy fraud prevention, anti-malware, firewall, and antivirus tools on company computers and consider browser extensions to identify and block known phishing websites. Make sure to choose each tool carefully, for example, one antivirus software might be good for Windows, but Mac users might have to choose a different one.
- Improve Email Security: You should also invest in email spam filtering services to identify and quarantine suspicious emails/attachments. It can also help you fortify your defense against phishing attacks.
- Keep Software Up to Date: Lastly, keep your security defenses relevant and effective by consistently updating your web browsers, operating systems, and security software to ensure you have the latest security patches.
The landscape of cybersecurity is ever-evolving, and it demands a proactive and informed approach to safeguard your business against phishing attacks.
Recognizing the deceptive tactics and techniques that cybercriminals use to execute phishing attacks is a crucial step in securing your B2B interaction.
It can help you establish a robust defense mechanism and elevate your business’s overall security posture.