Doxing, targeted email attacks on the rise
Malicious users seem to have understood that adapting some of the tricks used by advance persistent threat (APT) groups works well in achieving a wide variety of their goals, such as using ransomware for targeted hits on organisations.
According to Kaspersky researchers, another targeted threat to watch out for is corporate doxing, the process of gathering confidential information about an organisation and its employees without their agreement to harm them or profit from it. Proliferation of publicly available information, data leaks and advancement of technology are leading to a state in which tricking employees into giving out confidential information or even transferring funds is becoming easier than ever before.
One of the methods used to dox organisations is Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks. BEC attacks are targeted attacks in which criminals initiate email chains with employees by impersonating someone from the company.
In February 2021 Kaspersky detected 1646 such attacks, underlining the vulnerability of organisations when it comes to the exploitation of publicly available information. Generally, the purpose of such attacks is to extract confidential information, such as client databases, or to steal funds. For instance, Kaspersky researchers regularly analyse cases in which criminals impersonate one of the target organisations’ employees using emails very similar to the real ones to extract funds.
Such attacks would not be possible on a massive scale without criminals gathering and analysing public information available on social media and beyond, such as names and positions of employees, their whereabouts, vacation times and connections.
However, BEC attacks are just one type of attack that exploits publicly available information in order to harm an organisation. The diversity of ways organisations can be doxed is staggering and, besides the more obvious methods such as phishing or compiling profiles on organisations using data leaks, includes more creative, technology-driven approaches.
Perhaps one of the most trending corporate doxing strategies is identity theft. As a general rule, doxers rely on information to profile specific employees and then exploit their identity. New technologies such as deepfakes make such initiatives easier to execute provided there is public data to begin with.
For instance, a deepfake video believed to be some organisation’s employee could harm the company’s reputation, and to create it. Doxers would simply need some kind of visual image of the target employee and basic personal information.
Voices could also be abused a top-level speaker presenting on the radio or in some podcast could potentially end up having their voice recorded and then imitated later or instance, in a call to accounting requesting an urgent banking transfer or sending over clients’ database.
“While doxing is generally believed to be an issue for regular users we often see it figure in social media scandals corporate doxing is a real threat for an organisations’ confidential data and one that should not be overlooked.
The doxing of organisations, just as of people, may result in financial and reputational losses, and the more sensitive the confidential information extracted is, the higher the harm. At the same time, doxing is one of the threats that could be prevented or at least significantly minimised with strong security procedures within an organisation,” comments Roman Dedenok, security researcher at Kaspersky.
In order to avoid or minimise the risk of a successful attack on an organisation, Kaspersky recommends:
- Establish a rigid rule to never discuss work-related issues outside of the official corporate messaging platforms, and train employees to strictly adhere to this rule.
- Raise employee awareness of cyber security issues and threats. This is the only way to effectively counteract the social engineering techniques that are aggressively used by attackers, according to Kaspersky.
- Train employees to double-check information requests that come via e-mail, phone calls or messages sent from an external platform.
- Ensure the latest anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions are used and kept up-to-date.