Watch out for Office 365 and G Suite scams, FBI warns businesses

The menace of Business Email Compromise (BEC) is often overshadowed by ransomware but it’s something small and medium-sized shouldn’t lose sight of.

Bang on cue, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has alerted US businesses to ongoing attacks targeting organisations using Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite.

Warnings about BEC are ten-a-penny but this one refers specifically to those carried out against the two largest hosted email services, and the believes that SMEs, with their limited IT resources, are most at risk of these types of scams:

Between January 2014 and October 2019, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received complaints totaling over $2.1 billion in actual losses from BEC scams targeting Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite.

As organisations move to hosted email, criminals migrate to follow them.

As with all types of BEC, after breaking into the account, criminals look for evidence of financial transactions, later impersonating employees to redirect payments to themselves.

For good measure, they’ll often also launch phishing attacks on contacts to grab even more credentials, and so the crime feeds itself a steady supply of new victims.

The deeper question is why BEC scams continue to be such a problem when it’s well understood that they can be defended against using technologies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).

One answer is that older email systems don’t support such technologies, a point Microsoft made recently when the company revealed that legacy protocols such as SMTP and IMAP correlated to a markedly higher chance of compromise.

Lacking that, such accounts immediately become vulnerable to password weaknesses such as re-use.

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