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Phishing. It seems you can’t read an article on cybersecurity without it coming up. That’s because phishing is still the number one delivery vehicle for cyberattacks.

A cybercriminal may want to steal employee login credentials, launch a ransomware attack, or possibly plant spyware to steal sensitive info. For a hacker, sending a phishing email can accomplish all of this.

80% of surveyed security professionals say that phishing campaigns have significantly increased post-pandemic.

Phishing not only continues to work, but it’s also increasing in volume due to the increase in remote workers. Many employees are now working from home and don’t have the same network protections they had when working at the office.

Why has phishing continued to work so well after all these years? Aren’t people finally learning what phishing looks like?

It’s true that people are generally more aware of phishing emails and have gotten better at stopping them. However, it’s also true that these emails are becoming harder to recognize as scammers evolve their tactics.

One of the newest tactics is particularly hard to detect, the reply-chain phishing attack. 

What is a Reply-Chain Phishing Attack?

Just about everyone is familiar with reply chains in email. An email is sent to one or more people, one replies, and that reply sits at the bottom of the new message. Then another person chimes in on the conversation, replying to the same email.

Soon, you have a chain of email replies on a particular topic. It lists each reply one under the other so everyone can follow the conversation.

You don’t expect a phishing email tucked inside that ongoing email conversation. Most people are expecting phishing to come in as a new message, not a message included in an ongoing reply chain.

The reply-chain phishing attack is particularly insidious because it does exactly that. It inserts a convincing phishing email in the ongoing thread of an email reply chain. 

How Does a Hacker Gain Access to the Reply Chain?

How does a hacker gain access to the reply chain conversation? By hacking the email account of one of those people copied on the email chain.

The hacker can email from an email address that the other recipients recognize and trust. They also gain the benefit of reading down through the chain of replies. This enables them to craft a response that looks like it fits.

For example, they may see that everyone has been weighing in on a new product idea. So, they send a reply that says, “I’ve drafted up some thoughts on the new product, here’s a link to see them.”

The link will go to a malicious phishing site. The site might infect a visitor’s system with malware or present a form to steal more login credentials.

The reply won’t seem like a phishing email at all. It will be convincing because:

  • It comes from an email address of a colleague. This address has already been participating in the email conversation.
  • It may sound natural and reference items in the discussion.
  • It may use personalization. The email can call others by the names the hacker has seen in the reply chain.

Business Email Compromise is Increasing

Business email compromise (BEC) is so common that it now has its own acronym. Weak and unsecured passwords lead to email breaches. So do data breaches that reveal databases full of user logins. Both are contributors to how common BEC is becoming.

In 2021, 77% of organizations saw business email compromise attacks. This is up 65% compared to the year before.

Credential theft has become the main cause of data breaches globally. 

The reply-chain phishing attack is one of the ways that hackers turn that BEC into money. They either use it to plant ransomware or other malware or to steal sensitive data to sell on the Dark Web.

Tips for Addressing Reply-Chain Phishing

Here are some ways that you can lessen the risk of reply-chain phishing in your organization:

  • Use a Business Password Manager: This reduces the risk that employees will reuse passwords across many apps. It also keeps them from using weak passwords since they won’t need to remember them anymore. Click here to learn more about our password manager solution, LastPass.
  • Put Multi-Factor Controls on Email Accounts: Present a system challenge (question or required code). Using this for email logins from a strange IP address can stop account compromise. You can learn more about MFA here.
  • Teach Employees to be Aware: Awareness is a big part of catching anything that might be slightly “off” in an email reply.  Many attackers do make mistakes. Our Security Awareness Training will give your employees the tools they need to identify threats. Click here to learn more.

How Strong Are Your Email Account Protections?

Do you have enough protection in place on your business email accounts to prevent a breach? Let us know if you’d like some help!

Databranch has a foundation security suite with systems in place to identify any anomalies before cyber criminals have a chance to do significant damage to your network. Contact us at 716-373-4467 x 15, info@databranch.com, or request more information below. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

  • 34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues
  • 44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts
  • 49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

Use a Password Manager for Secure Storage

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways. Such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others.

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

Review/Adjust Privacy & Security Setting

Have you taken time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

Use Leaked Password Alerts in Your Browser

You can have impeccable password security on your end, yet still have your passwords compromised. This can happen when a retailer or cloud service you use has their master database of usernames and passwords exposed and the data stolen.

When this happens, those leaked passwords can quickly end up for sale on the Dark Web without you even knowing it.

Due to this being such a prevalent problem, browsers like Chrome and Edge have had leaked password alert capabilities added. Any passwords that you save in the browser will be monitored, and if found to be leaked, you’ll see an alert when you use it.

 

Look for this in the password area of your browser, as you may have to enable it. This can help you know as soon as possible about a leaked password, so you can change it.

Don’t Enter Passwords When on a Public Wi-Fi

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

Use Good Device Security

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to.

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Up-to-date software and OS
  • Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

Looking for Password & Cloud Account Security Solutions?

Don’t leave your online accounts at risk. We can help you review your current cloud account security and provide helpful recommendations. Contact Databranch today at 716-373-4467 x 15 or info@databranch.com if you would like to enhance your security and want to discuss you options.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.