Receiving a phishing email has unfortunately become a normal thing for large corporations and businesses. Many of those corporations and businesses have layers of security in their email systems to find and eradicate phishing emails. One such phishing email is called CEO fraud, in which the sender attempts to fool the recipient into thinking they are an official from that institution. In short, the criminal sends an email to someone making it appear as if the email address is internal. If the recipient doesn’t look carefully enough, they could be fooled and comply with the sender’s request. CEO fraud phishing emails generally request personal information from the recipient about employees of the company or institution.
Here’s how the scam works: Cybercriminals use various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. This scam is sometimes referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES).
The IRS has issued a warning that these phishing emails are on the rise and targeting schools, restaurants, hospitals, tribal groups, non-profits, and others. Criminals are likely targeting these targets because their security measures and practices are probably more relaxed than major corporate businesses. Amplify is one such company that was recently hit by a CEO fraud phishing email. The company is in the education technology business which means many of their clients are schools. While the company itself was compromised and private data was given out, it was only internal and did not affect any of its clients.
“Amplify was a victim of the widespread ‘Form W-2 email phishing scam,’ which has affected many companies and other types of organizations,” David Stevenson, Amplify’s Executive Vice President, wrote in an email to EdSurge. “Our security team confirmed that while the attack exposed personal employee information, it did not impact our corporate network, our product platform, or customer data.” The company says it is actively working with local law enforcement, the FBI and the IRS to investigate.
While these CEO fraud phishing emails aren’t news to the corporate world, others should be aware that criminals are looking for new targets and be on alert. The IRS warns that this year’s phishing scams are the largest they’ve seen in a long time.
“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme,’’ said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Employers and employees involved in day to day handling of PPI should be on alert and question emails that just do not seem right.
What do you think of this increase in CEO fraud this year? Have you been a victim? Let us know your thoughts and comments below or on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.