Home » Don’t Get Hooked: A Real-Life Business Email Compromise Example

Don’t Get Hooked: A Real-Life Business Email Compromise Example

Don't Get Hooked: A Real-Life Business Email Compromise Example




Imagine this: You’re a financial controller at a medium-sized company, and you receive an urgent email from your CEO. He’s in a meeting and needs you to process a wire transfer of $50,000 to a vendor immediately. The email looks legitimate, complete with the company logo and signature. Without hesitation, you initiate the transfer. Little do you know, you’ve just fallen victim to a business email compromise example scam.


BEC is a type of cybercrime where attackers use social engineering tactics to manipulate employees into transferring money or sensitive information. These attacks are often highly sophisticated, exploiting the trust and authority of high-ranking executives to deceive employees.


In this article, we’ll explore a real-life example of a BEC attack, highlighting the tactics used by attackers and the lessons learned from the incident.


The Setup


In this business email compromise example, the attackers demonstrated a high level of sophistication by conducting thorough research on the company and its employees. By identifying the CEO’s name and email address, they were able to create a spoofed email account that closely resembled the CEO’s official email address. This attention to detail helped to lend credibility to the fraudulent wire transfer request sent to the financial controller.


The attackers’ ability to mimic the CEO’s email address highlights the importance of being cautious when receiving emails, even from seemingly legitimate sources. Businesses should implement strict email authentication protocols and train employees to recognize potential phishing attempts. By staying vigilant and verifying the authenticity of requests, businesses can protect themselves from falling victim to similar business email compromise attacks.


The Hook


In this business email compromise example, the attackers used a sense of urgency to manipulate the financial controller into processing the fraudulent wire transfer. The email, crafted to appear as if it were from the CEO, stated that the transfer was needed immediately and instructed the controller to keep the request confidential. This tactic is commonly used in BEC attacks to pressure the recipient into bypassing standard verification procedures and acting quickly without questioning the legitimacy of the request.


By creating a sense of urgency and confidentiality, the attackers were able to exploit the controller’s trust in the CEO and deceive them into initiating the transfer. This example highlights the importance of remaining vigilant and verifying requests, especially when they involve financial transactions or sensitive information. Educating employees about these tactics can help prevent similar incidents in the future and protect against BEC attacks.


The Catch


The financial controller, trusting the email’s authenticity and not wanting to disobey the CEO’s instructions, initiated the wire transfer without verifying the request through other means.


The Result


In this business email compromise example, the company suffered a significant financial loss of $50,000 due to a fraudulent wire transfer. The attackers, leveraging social engineering tactics and a sense of urgency, were able to deceive the financial controller into initiating the transfer without proper verification. By the time the company realized the email was a scam, it was too late, and the funds had already been withdrawn by the attackers.


This example underscores the importance of verifying requests for wire transfers, especially when they come from high-ranking executives or seem out of the ordinary. Implementing strict verification procedures and educating employees about the risks of BEC attacks can help prevent such incidents. Additionally, regularly reviewing financial transactions and implementing approval processes for large transfers can provide an additional layer of security against BEC attacks.


Lessons Learned


This business email compromise example highlights the importance of implementing robust security measures to protect against BEC attacks. Some key lessons learned from this incident include:


  1. Verify Requests


Verifying requests for wire transfers or sensitive information, particularly if they’re unusual or from a high-ranking executive, is essential in preventing a business email compromise example. This process involves directly contacting the sender through a known, secure method to confirm the request’s legitimacy. By implementing this practice, businesses can thwart fraudulent attempts and safeguard their finances and sensitive data. Additionally, educating employees about these verification procedures can enhance their awareness and help them recognize potential BEC attacks, further strengthening the organization’s security posture.


  1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication


Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for email accounts and other sensitive systems to prevent unauthorized access.


  1. Educate Employees


Training employees to recognize phishing emails and other social engineering tactics is crucial in preventing business email compromise (BEC) attacks. Employees should be able to identify suspicious emails, such as those requesting urgent action or containing unusual requests. By educating employees about the risks of business email compromise example attacks and how to respond to them, businesses can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to such scams. Ongoing training and regular updates on the latest phishing techniques can help employees stay vigilant and protect the organization from BEC attacks.


  1. Implement Email Authentication


Use email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to verify the authenticity of incoming emails and prevent spoofing.


  1. Monitor Financial Transactions


Monitor financial transactions closely for any suspicious activity and implement approval processes for large transactions.




Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks continue to be a significant concern for businesses worldwide, with cybercriminals using sophisticated tactics to deceive employees and compromise sensitive information. The example highlighted in this article underscores the importance of implementing stringent security measures to mitigate the risk of falling victim to such attacks.


One key takeaway from this business email compromise example is the need for employees to verify the authenticity of requests, especially when they involve financial transactions or sensitive information. This can be achieved through simple measures such as picking up the phone and confirming the request with the supposed sender. Additionally, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for email accounts and other sensitive systems can add an extra layer of security, making it harder for attackers to gain unauthorized access.


Educating employees about the dangers of BEC attacks and how to recognize phishing emails is also crucial. By raising awareness and providing regular training, businesses can empower their employees to identify and report suspicious emails, reducing the risk of falling victim to BEC scams.


In conclusion, while business email compromise example attacks continue to evolve, businesses can protect themselves by implementing robust security measures, educating their employees, and staying vigilant against potential threats.


About Bytagig

Bytagig is dedicated to providing reliable, full-scale cyber security and IT support for businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups in a variety of industries. Bytagig works both remotely with on-site support in Portland, San Diego, and Boston. Acting as internal IT staff, Bytagig handles employee desktop setup and support, comprehensive IT systems analysis, IT project management, website design, and more. Bytagig is setting the standard for MSPs by being placed on Channel Future’s NexGen 101 list.

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