Slicker presentation makes frauds more convincing
Internet abuse is changing. Traditionally, cybercriminals sent generic phishing mails to vast numbers of people. The tactic relied on a small percentage of recipients clicking the link, providing their details or paying the phantom invoice. But the percentage of people falling for the frauds has been declining as public awareness has grown. In response, the crooks have changed their methods. Scams are increasingly targeted and increasingly slick
Abuse of social media
Wherever money changes hands, you'll find cybercriminals. On-line marketplaces are used by private sellers to offer products of all kinds for sale. Some crooks will use, say, WhatsApp to ask a private seller to make a payment of a single cent. The crook will justify the request by saying that they want to check that the seller is genuine before making full payment. But they'll provide a link to a phishing site mocked up to look like the seller's bank website, with the amount and account number pre-filled. The one-cent payment will seemingly go through as normal, giving no cause for concern. But, because the user was actually on a phishing site, the information provided enables the crooks to set up a much larger payment into an account they control.
Abuse of internal company mail
In recent months, a lot of companies have been the targets of a new form of deception: CEO fraud. It usually starts with a fake e-mail, which appears to come from one of the organisation's senior managers. In it, the 'manager' will instruct someone lower down the company hierarchy to arrange a large payment, typically to a foreign bank account. CEO fraudsters often try to put their targets at ease by including real details in their e-mails. They might refer to the CEO's appearance or communication style, for example, or drop in the names of other people who work for the organisation. If the recipient hesitates, there may be a follow-up phone call from a fake law firm or the like. Convinced by the body of correspondence and calls, the victim makes the payment in good faith. When it comes to light that a very large sum has been paid to crooks who have long since disappeared, the organisation is likely to face a second blow: most business insurance policies don't cover this kind of loss. Not long ago, SIDN itself was targeted by CEO fraudsters. Fortunately, the e-mail purporting to come from our CEO Roelof Meijer wasn't very professional and went to an attentive staff member. Not every organisation gets so lucky.
Abuse of fake news
In 2015, one gang set up a fake website using the name Bloomberg. The real Bloomberg provides financial data to banks and others all over the world. The company's strong reputation means that many people see it as a reliable information source. The fake Bloomberg website reported that Twitter was going to be sold for $31 billion. Various media outlets picked up the story, and, as the 'news' spread, the price of Twitter shares soon began to rise. Such forms of abuse have enormous impact on the companies affected. As a result, Facebook, Twitter and others have recently decided to proactively scan their platforms for fake news and take it down.
What does ABN AMRO do to stop internet abuse?
"At ABN-AMRO, proactive abuse prevention is a very high priority," says Robin Schouten (Internet Brand Protection Subject-matter Expert). "We have a duty to protect our customers. So we actively monitor mail traffic for abuse and keep a permanent lookout for domain names that incorporate the name 'ABN AMRO'. As soon as anyone registers a domain name that looks like our brand name, such as www.abnambro.nl, we get an alert. We then follow it up to see whether the registration is suspicious. And, if it is, we take action right away. That might involve getting a phishing site taken down or taking legal action to make a domain name's registrant hand it over to us. We also work closely with organisations such as SIDN to pick up new forms of on-line abuse and intervene to stop them."
What's SIDN's advice?
So what can you do to avoid getting stung by on-line brand abuse? First, it helps to train your staff to recognise scams. Arrange for them to take periodic on-line training courses or do tests that teach them how to tell whether an e-mail sender, a link or a domain name is trustworthy. There are various preventive measures you can take. We've described some of them in our article Tips for protecting your brand on line. Finally, we advise using the Domain Name Surveillance Service (DBS): a monitoring tool that warns you about domain name registrations closely resembling your company name or brand name. The standard version alerts you to suspect .nl registrations, but you can easily expand it to provide worldwide cover. So you're able to act quickly whenever someone tries to use your good name for a dishonest purpose. Request an on-line demo now!