Language-based BEC attacks rising

Armorblox released a report which highlights the use of language-based attacks that bypass existing email security controls. The report uncovers how the continued increase in remote work has made critical business workflows even more vulnerable to new forms of email-based attacks, often resulting in financial fraud or credential theft.

email language-based attacks

The report is based on data gathered across 58,000+ customer tenants, end-user feedback, and threat research. It documents both the rise in targeted attacks and the increased sophistication, accuracy, and financial impact of email-based attacks.

Key findings

  • Language-based attacks have become the new normal for business email compromise (BEC) with 74% of these attacks using language as the main attack vector.
  • Attackers have realized that many critical business workflows happen over email. As a result, this has become the primary attack mechanism for credential phishing. Notably, 87% of credential phishing attacks looked like legitimate common business workflows in order to trick end users into engaging with the email.
  • Security teams spend a massive amount of time configuring rules and exceptions in their email security solutions to block impersonation emails – both for executives and other employees. Despite all of that manual work and rule writing, 70% of impersonation emails evaded email security controls.
  • The rise of SaaS solutions driving business workflows has also created a huge surge in brand impersonation of companies in this space. Dropbox, Microsoft, and DocuSign were among the most impersonated brands in 2021.

“Based on threats analyzed by Armorblox across our customer base of over 58,000 organizations, we see a sharp increase in email attacks targeting critical business workflows. These use language as the primary attack vector and impersonate VIPs, known vendors, and SaaS applications,” said DJ Sampath, CEO of Armorblox.

“It is critical that organizations augment their existing email security stack with modern API-based solutions that build custom models specifically focused on these targeted attacks.”

Attackers are moving away from decades-old approaches that use malicious links or attachments in broad-based attack campaigns, to targeted attacks where the language in the email is used to compromise a user’s trust.

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