Recently, one of our employees received an email from a valued client. The email said that important information was attached and to open the attached weblink to retrieve it. The employee opened the weblink and found a Google sign in page. The employee was asked to sign into their Google account to get the promised information. The employee did. Next, a message stated that there was a problem and the link couldn’t be opened at this time.
Two days later, my banker called me to confirm whether I wanted to wire $47,550 to an account in Baltimore for the purchase of a manufactured home. My banker was confirming an email request from what she thought was my office to do just that. We had sent no such email request. And we stopped the wire transfer from happening.
In retrospect, here’s what happened. Our client’s email system was hacked. The thief was then able to replicate our client’s email and send an email to us that looked like it was from our client. When our employee went to open the link and complete the Google page, they were actually entering their Google password into the thief’s Google look- a-like page. With this information, the thief was able to open our employee’s email account and see who they talked to and what subjects they addressed. Thereafter, the thief emailed the bank employee, who we regularly communicated with, and asked for the wire transfer using names and phrases we often use. The thief specifically asked our banker not to follow up with a confirmation call as we were busy and out of the office. The thief’s email to our banker looked just like it had come from us.
One thing we’d done right was to have previously visited with our bank about wire transfer safeguards. We’d asked the bank to confirm by phone any wire transfer requests. In addition, we invested in a “Cyber Liability Insurance Policy” two years ago that would have helped had this situation gotten worse. This policy protects us from private data loss, system damage due to hackers, liability caused due to hackers, copyright infringement, etc.
To reduce our future risk, we’ve:
- Trained our employees not to open weblinks in an email purporting to have documents accessible in it and to only open attached files ending in .jpg or .pdf ;
- Begun to review our online bank transactions daily for unapproved activity;
- Trained our employees to never update or authenticate account information pursuant to an email request;
- Advised our bank that all wire transfers must be requested in person;
- Decided to use public wifi systems sparingly, and never access sensitive information over them. Employees with unlimited mobile data plans will use them exclusively; and
- Adopted a new email protocol which requires two passwords if previously unauthorized locations or devices try to access the system.
Stay on your toes. The Barbarians are at your internet portal.