The FBI has issued a warning to private sector enterprises about scammers masquerading construction companies in business email compromise (BEC) cyberattacks targeting firms in a variety of critical infrastructure sectors across the United States.
BEC scammers utilize a variety of techniques (such as social engineering and phishing) to hijack or spoof business email accounts in order to redirect pending or future payments to bank accounts under their control.
The alert was delivered to enterprises today via a TLP:GREEN Private Industry Notification (PIN) to assist cybersecurity professionals in defending against these ongoing threats.
The instances are part of a BEC campaign that began in March 2021 and has already resulted in monetary losses ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.
The scammers use data collected from web services about the construction companies they spoof and the customers they’re targeting to successfully carry out these BEC attacks. Local and state government budget data portals, as well as subscription-based construction sector data aggregators, are used to gather valuable data (e.g., contact information, bid data, and project prices).
The attackers can modify emails to undermine the victim’s business relationship with the construction contractors using the information they’ve gathered. The scammers send emails urging the victims to update their direct deposit account and automated clearing house (ACH) information to make the emails more convincing. The new account information leads to bank accounts controlled by criminals.
To make sure the victims won’t be able to tell that the messages are fraudulent, they are sent using names that impersonate the contractors’ actual sites and real corporate logos and visuals.
Around $2 billion lost in 2020 BEC scams:
Between November 2018 and September 2020, the FBI warned of a new wave of BEC attacks increasingly targeting US state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government bodies, with losses ranging from $10,000 to $4 million.
Microsoft discovered a large-scale BEC operation targeting over 120 companies last month that used typo-squatted domains registered just days before the attacks began.
The FBI stated, “The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) notes BEC is an increasing and constantly evolving threat as criminal actors become more sophisticated and adapt to current events. There was a 5 percent increase in adjusted losses from 2019 to 2020, with over $1.7 billion adjusted losses reported to IC3 in 2019 and over $1.8 billion adjusted losses reported in 2020.”
The FBI also warned last year that BEC scammers were using email auto-forwarding and cloud email platforms like Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite in their attacks.
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