Security

Yar, thar she blows: Corp-cash-stealing email whaling attacks now a $12.5bn industry

Business accounts worth their weight in gold to scammers


Business email accounts remain a lucrative way for scammers to get into companies and turn a quick buck.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says that attacks using Business Email Compromise (stealing a legit business account and then using it to transfer funds out to criminals) incidents have exploded, with reported losses more than doubling over the last two years.

From October 2013 to May 2018, 78,617 incidents were reported to the two groups, with total losses topping $12.5bn. In the US alone, 41,058 companies were hit for $2.93bn worth of losses. By comparison, between 2013 and 2016, BEC attacks netted criminals worldwide around $5bn in total.

"Between December 2016 and May 2018, there was a 136 per cent increase in identified global exposed losses the FBI said. "The scam has been reported in all 50 states and in 150 countries."

Also known as 'whaling', the attacks target specific, high-value accounts and individuals. The technique can be enormously profitable for scammers when they succeed.

It is not just cash transfers that are being targeted. IC3 notes that personally identifiable information is also increasingly being sought (usually for identity or tax theft). Scammers are also looking to move into targeting new industries such as real estate where companies are not as wise to their tricks.

"Victims most often report a spoofed email being sent or received on behalf of one of these real estate transaction participants with instructions directing the recipient to change the payment type and/or payment location to a fraudulent account," the agencies said in their report.

Scammers ahoy! International police operation harpoons 74 email whaling suspects

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"The funds are usually directed to a fraudulent domestic account which quickly disperse through cash or check withdrawals."

Most often, the report says, the cash ends up getting moved via money mules before going to banks in China or Hong Kong via wire transfer. Outside of Asia, the report notes that banks in Mexico, Turkey, and the UK have also been popular locations to dump the pilfered cash.

The report recommends that companies use multiple forms of communication before making a transfer, particularly ones that include changes in the way a payment is issued. This will make it harder for the would-be scammers to operate.

"Be wary of any communication that is exclusively e-mail based and establish a secondary means of communication for verification purposes," the agencies advise.

"Be mindful of phone conversations. Victims have reported receiving phone calls from BEC/EAC actors requesting personal information for verification purposes." ®

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Mayflower, the AI ship sent to sail from the UK to the US with no humans, made it three days before breaking down

Plus: Canon has cameras that only let employees into meeting rooms if they smile, and more

In brief The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), which set sail this week from the UK to the US, failed just three days into its journey. It appears a mechanical fault occurred, something the Mayflower's AI can't fix itself.

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Spyware, trade-secret theft, and $30m in damages: How two online support partners spectacularly fell out

Chat-bot maker LivePerson wins lawsuit against call-center outfit [24]7.ai

On Thursday, a jury in a federal court in Oakland, California, found call center biz [24]7.ai – as in, 24/7 – guilty of unfair competition and stealing trade secrets from chatbot maker LivePerson, awarding the company more than $30m in damages.

The case was filed in 2014. In its complaint [PDF], LivePerson described how its partnership with 24/7 went bad.

LivePerson provides online engagement technology, which takes the form of chatbots that corporate clients add to their websites to field questions, gather interaction data, and reduce customer support costs.

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Amazon notices Apple, Google cutting app store commission rates, follows suit

Keeps small-time devs on the reservation with AWS credits, too

Amazon this week said it would reduce its Appstore commission rate for less successful developers, following recent similar moves by Apple and Google, and is sweetening its deal by offering AWS credits to support apps' backend services.

"Starting in Q4, for developers that earned less than $1m in revenue in the previous calendar year, we are increasing developer revenue share and adding AWS credit options," said Palanidaran Chidambaram, director of the Amazon Appstore, in a blog post. "This brings total program benefits up to an equivalent of 90 percent of revenue."

Amazon will allow developers to retain 80 per cent of app revenue, keeping 20 per cent for itself. The company suggests those using AWS credits will add another 10 per cent to the developer take. It's calling its largesse the Amazon Appstore Small Business Accelerator Program.

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FCC pushes forward on rules to block the certification of new telecoms gear from ZTE and Huawei

Crackdown on loopholes that allow 'high-risk' vendors to have equipment approved for use in the US

The US Federal Communications Commission is pressing forward with a proposal that would ban telecommunications providers [PDF] from using equipment made by manufacturers deemed to present a risk to national security.

The agency has opened a request for comments on rules that would revoke the certification of any equipment listed by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. This probe has also sought to gauge the temperature for withdrawing certification for "high-risk" equipment already deployed by carriers.

Both Huawei and ZTE were listed in the notification, as well as smaller entities that have earned the ire of US government. These include the Hytera Communications Corporation, which produces radio systems for cellular and industrial users, as well as video surveillance vendors Dahua and Hikvision.

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New York congressman puts forward federal right-to-repair bill

Fair Repair Act targets all varieties of electronic devices

A New York congressman has introduced a federal right-to-repair bill, just a week after the state's Senate passed a bill addressing the same issue. That state bill has failed to progress, we note.

The proposed federal-level legislation, though, would compel original equipment manufacturers to provide consumers and independent businesses access to the tools, schematics, and parts required to fix broken devices.

Dubbed the Fair Repair Act, and proposed by House Rep Joe Morelle (D-NY), the bill would provide an equal basis for all consumers and independent repair shops. Although great strides have been made pushing similar legislation on the state level, with bills introduced or passed in 27 states this year alone, progress has not been evenly divided.

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Petition instructs Jeff Bezos to buy, eat world's most famous painting

Booze-fuelled Change.org campaign implores Amazon founder to 'GOBBLE DA LISA!'

Ultra-billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has already been the subject of a petition asking him not to return to Earth after he blasts off in his New Shepard rocket on July 20, but even if he is allowed back, Bezos is now facing an even more difficult prospect.

The aerodynamically-pated arch-villain archetype and his vast fortune are increasingly becoming subjects of fascination for the denizens of campaign website Change.org, with multiple petitions currently running, mostly trying to persuade him to divert some of his almost-limitless resources toward good causes.

However, some users are suggesting more novel and entertaining uses for his immense wealth. Change.org user Kane Powell has chosen to use the platform to attempt to persuade Bezos to buy and eat the Mona Lisa, the supposedly priceless Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece housed in the Louvre in Paris.

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Microsoft: Try to break our first preview of 64-bit Visual Studio – go on, we dare you

Plus: Updates to .NET 6, ASP.NET Core, and .NET MAUI

Microsoft has unveiled a slew of developer tools, including a preview of the 64-bit Visual Studio 2022, ahead of that developer event set for 24 June.

Preview 1 of Visual Studio 2022 comes direct from the department of never-say-never following version after version of the toolset remaining staunchly 32-bit, even as the hardware world changed around it.

The move to 64-bit was announced earlier this year and is an ambitious one considering the ecosystem and sheer size of the Visual Studio codebase.

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Racist malware blocks The Pirate Bay by tampering with victims' Windows hosts file

Hello, 2002 called with one of the oldest low-tech tricks in the book

Malware laced with racial epithets tries to block Windows-based victims from visiting file-sharing sites associated with copyright infringement, according to new Sophos research.

The malicious software amounts to a "goofy process to block people from going to the Pirate Bay," according to Sophos researcher Andrew Brandt, who stumbled across the malware after a colleague mentioned it in passing.

Rather than opening a backdoor for a ransomware gang to exploit or dropping a malicious payload, however, this malware merely sinkholes a bunch of Pirate Bay domain names by adding them to the Windows hosts file and pointing them at 127.0.0.1 – meaning they'll be inaccessible from the victim's machine.

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UK gets glowing salute from Bezos-backed General Fusion: Nuclear energy company to build plant in Oxfordshire

Biz will develop Magnetized Target Fusion technology at the site

General Fusion – the Canadian-based atomic outfit backed by Jeff Bezos and a battalion of other major investors – is to build a test facility in Oxfordshire to showcase its power-generating technology.

Following a COVID-friendly handshake, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has given General Fusion the green light to proceed with its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at UKAEA's Centre for Fusion Energy Campus in Culham.

The campus – a Royal Navy airbase until it was handed to the UKAEA in 1960 – is home to a cluster of fusion development technologies.

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UK financial watchdog dithers over £680k refund from Google (in ad credits, mind you) for running anti-fraud ads

MPs give FCA a telling-off for wasting taxpayer money

The UK's financial regulator is refusing to say whether it will accept an offer by Google to pay back more than £600,000 spent on online ads warning people about the dangers of money scams.

News that Google made the offer came to light earlier this week during oral evidence [PDF] to the Treasury Committee hearing on economic crime. Among those giving evidence was Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market insight at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

He was quizzed by Rushinara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, who wanted to know about the £600,000 the FCA is paying Google to run ads warning about online financial scams.

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CREST president Ian Glover to retire after 13 years – but where's the transparency, bossman?

UK infosec accreditation body still won't publish exam cheatsheet scandal report nor be interviewed by El Reg

Ian Glover, president of infosec accreditation body CREST, is stepping down from his post, he told the organisation's annual general meeting yesterday.

Sources whispered of Glover's departure to The Register ahead of a mass mailout today to members of the organisation, which oversees some industry-recognised penetration testing exams and certifications in the UK.

"My retirement is something I have been planning for some time and, while I leave with a heavy heart, I am confident CREST will continue to move forward in the hands of an excellent team," said the man himself in a canned statement emailed round CREST member organisations, following his 13 years at the helm.

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