Report: Supplier Impersonation Attacks a Major Risk


Threat actors are leveraging the supply chain to deliver various types of threats to organizations, and few of them are spared from such attacks, according to a new report from enterprise security company Proofpoint.

During a seven-day window in February 2021, out of a total of 3000 monitored organizations, Proofpoint reports that a whopping 98 percent were hit with a form of assault leveraging compromised supplier accounts and supplier impersonation.

 Such attacks, Proofpoint explains, leverage compromised supplier domains to deliver a broad range of threats, including invoicing fraud, phishing messages aimed at credential harvesting, malware, and business email compromise (BEC).

Of the observed attacks relying on impersonated and compromised suppliers, 74% leveraged social engineering for phishing or BEC and less than 30% of them were malware related. This shows that attackers continue to exploit the human element rather than vulnerabilities in an organization’s infrastructure.

“As well, attackers are following suppliers to the cloud and are exploiting popular collaboration platforms such as Microsoft 365, Google G-Suite, and Dropbox to host or send threats at an alarming rate,” according to the Proofpoint report.

Impostor threats, which include domain and display name spoofing, along with lookalike domains, account for only 3 percent of the total attacks delivered through supplier domains. Such threats are tailored to target only very few people within an organization.

Despite being low volume, these highly targeted attacks often result in high losses. According to the FBI, BEC and email account compromise (EAC) scams incurred losses in excess of $1.8 billion in 2020.

Large organizations, Proofpoint reveals, are targeted the most when it comes to threats served from supplier domains. Compared to the average, F1000 companies receive emails from twice as many supplier domains, thus are more exposed to impersonated and compromised suppliers. These organizations receive more than 4 times more threats served from supplier domains than the average.

More than 98% of organizations in the financial services, manufacturing, utilities, communications, transportation, wholesale trade, and construction were targeted from supplier domains, with the trend consistent across organizations based in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Related: DAIC: A Suggested System for Preventing BEC Fraud

Related: Russian BEC Ring Targets Many Multinational Organizations

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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