Business email compromise attacks are a significant threat to car dealerships.
Among the car dealerships we work with, two large threats represent the most significant risks at the moment. The first is ransomware, which we have covered extensively on this blog. The second, business email compromise, we’ve also talked a lot about, but mostly in terms of traditional financial services firms. However, business email compromise is one of the most common cybersecurity attacks today and, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, costs American firms $1.7 billion in 2019, while worldwide losses might well have reached over $5 billion!
How big is the risk of a business email compromise in a dealership?
Business email compromise attacks occur every single day across a variety of industries. Business email compromises typically occur via two specific attack vectors: phishing and stolen credential reuse. Most of our dealerships have significant controls around phishing, with those detection systems reporting tens to hundreds of attempts per day. While the phishing tools are good enough to stop the vast majority of common phishing attacks, there are some that make it through the network and computer-based defenses. When this happens, it is up to the humans in the dealership to be aware enough of the issue, be paying enough attention and have good enough training to prevent the phishing message from becoming a compromise.
In the second attack vector for business email compromise, attackers reuse stolen or leaked credentials (logins and passwords) that have become available on the Internet. There are several common forums and pastebin-type sites where these credentials are dumped, traded or sold (if you want to learn about a common tool to help monitor for these issues, check out ClawBack) and attackers monitor these sites with various tools. Once they see a leaked set of credentials, they try and use it on the web mail logins of their targets. If the user has the same login and password across many sites (many do), then the attacker may compromise the web mail account and be logged into the corporate email system as the user.
What happens in a typical business email compromise in a dealership?
Once the attacker has access to the email system, they will often spend a little time reading the emails and browsing through any files that the email server maintains. If the system includes chat capabilities, they often read those as well. They do this to learn about the user, their position and what the attacker may be able to use the compromised account to do. If any valuable information is in the email archive or on exposed files, they often steal that data right away for resale.
It’s not uncommon for attackers to set a forwarding address for compromised mail accounts, redirecting copies of emails to themselves so that they can monitor the email activity of the user without logging back into the server – thus reducing their chances of being discovered. If the compromised account doesn’t seem useful to the attacker, they will often use it to send phishing emails to other people in the address book, including other internal users, business partners, customers and the like. These phishing attacks are often highly successful, given that they come from a trusted contact and the attacker can tailor the language and tone of the email to match usual conversations.
Once the attacker gets access to an account that they feel is capable of either gaining them network access (think executives who can make requests of subordinates) or allow them to move money (think about accounts payable, wire, ACH and other banking fraud), they will use the email account to send messages, forms (if available) or other requests to get what they want. Again, these attacks are often highly successful, because the attacker comes from a known account, can tailor the language and tone of the messages, and can use social engineering techniques to apply pressure to the victims in order to get them to do things they might not ordinarily do.
What can dealerships do to prevent business email compromises?
Dealerships can combat business email comprise attacks by ensuring that their phishing and authentication defenses are up to par. They can train their team members to be on guard for messages that apply pressure, declare urgency or ask for unusual activities. The dealership can implement training and protocols for voice validation checks for unusual requests and perform ongoing testing of these types of scenarios to educate and keep their staff on guard.
Dealerships can also be vigilant about their email systems, configuring them to apply controls, ensure that logging and other security measures are in place. They can implement multi-factor authentication. They can have ongoing assessments and penetration testing – including business email comprise-based scenarios.
Reducing the risk is doable, but it does require work, investment and continued vigilance. Attackers only have to be right once, while the security controls and your team have to be right every single time to prevent losses. With incidents ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses – paying attention to business email compromises is critical for dealerships of all sizes.
To learn more about tools, techniques and testing to help your organization prevent, detect and respond to business email compromise attacks, get in touch with our team at SecureDrive Alliance for more information and a free risk discussion today.