Nov 27

What does Business Email Compromise (BEC) mean?

In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats faced by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the specter of Business Email Compromise (BEC) looms larger than ever. The gravity of this concern is underscored by recent statistics – in the past year alone, BEC attacks resulted in staggering actual losses amounting to $2.7 billion. Shockingly, this reflects a disconcerting 12.5% increase from the previous year.

As these insidious threats adeptly infiltrate email inboxes, it’s abundantly clear that businesses, irrespective of their size, must fortify their defenses. Let’s delve into the intricacies of business email compromise, understanding what BEC is, how it operates, and garner practical insights to shield against these increasingly sophisticated attacks.

Understanding Business Email Compromise (BEC): Unraveling Cyber Threats in the Corporate Inbox

Business Email Compromise (BEC) stands as a formidable type of cybercrime, orchestrated by threat actors aiming to manipulate or compromise email accounts within an organization. The objective? Committing a range of fraudulent activities, including wire fraud, data and credential theft, and phishing scams.

The mechanics of BEC attacks are deviously simple yet highly effective. Perpetrators strategically impersonate high-level executives or trusted vendors, utilizing email as their weapon of choice. Through this impersonation, they skillfully deceive employees or entire organizations, coercing them into unwittingly transferring funds or divulging sensitive information.

In essence, BEC exploits the trust inherent in email communications, capitalizing on the guise of authority to execute malicious actions that can have severe financial and data security repercussions.

Unveiling the Mechanics of BEC Attacks

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks unfold in a calculated series of steps:

  1. Research and Reconnaissance:
  • Attackers initiate by conducting meticulous research, delving into the minutiae of their targets. This includes gathering information about names, roles, and intricate relationships within the targeted organization.
  1. Email Compromise or Account Takeover:
  • Adversaries escalate their assault by gaining unauthorized access to an email account. This takeover is often achieved through a variety of cunning tactics such as phishing, social engineering, or exploiting vulnerabilities in software defenses.
  1. Impersonation:
  • With control firmly established over the compromised email account, the attacker dons the guise of a trusted figure within the organization. This could range from impersonating a CEO, CFO, or even a trusted vendor, using either a spoofed or legitimately compromised email account.
  1. Deception:
  • Armed with the ability to impersonate, threat actors unleash convincing emails designed to deceive unsuspecting employees. The goal is to manipulate recipients into performing actions that serve the attacker’s agenda. This can include initiating fund transfers, sharing sensitive information, or downloading seemingly innocuous yet malicious attachments.


As illustrated in the accompanying infographic, BEC attacks intricately weave through these stages, heavily relying on social engineering techniques. This makes them exceptionally challenging to detect or prevent using conventional security tools or spam filtering methods. The adaptability and sophistication of these attacks underscore the need for organizations to implement robust cybersecurity measures that go beyond traditional defenses.



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