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Scams Targeting Small Businesses

The number of scam or phishing email exposed to every Business has gone up even since our last blog on the topic a month ago. These emails originate from new opportunities being created by current events and take people's curiosity to convince them to open the email and click on links. In this Blog post we look some of the subtle changes.

This is an edited transcript from a video blog recording of Sarb Sembhi, CTO and the CISO for Virtually Informed, and his co-host Nick Ioannou, Head of IT at Ratcliffe Groves, the square brackets with the initials indicate the speaker. 

Introduction to Scam Opportunities Targeting Small Businesses

[SS]: Today we're going to be looking at scam business opportunities targeting Small Businesses in the days of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. I'm going to pass over to Nick start us off, over to you Nick.

Government Relief Scam Messages

[NI]: For some time now there's been a lot of scams focused around government relief, whether in the UK or the United States criminals have jumped upon this and so they're sending out emails and messages.

Examples of these emails and messages include account setups whether you have set up an account or not; the verify your passwords whether you have set up an account or not, and they'll attach forms for you to fill out. The forms may look like the official government forms because they know what these should look like, but now they have malicious macros or links in them.

So, without thinking out a proper strategy on avoiding these scams for Businesses governments have given Cybercriminals this massive opportunity to ask for your payment details for where you would like this money to go to. And the criminals are saying, here's your relief, this is the money your business is entitled to because of this scheme or that scheme and it all seems legitimate. Also, they may ask, if you have received the payment into your account yet, and would you like to verify that they have the correct details.

All of these emails and messages will arrive with the correct looking logos, they'll be short, there'll be links to government websites which work as well as sound extremely convincing. What you'll generally find though, is that the link that you expected to click on will sound official but it won't actually be an official government URL link and chances are it also won't be from an official government email address.

But also remember things like text messages may come from what appears to be the official government mobile address because it's a lot easier to spoof mobile numbers, while spoofing government email address has got a lot harder due to technologies like DMARC.

Both the email address of the sender and the URL that they are sending you to, alone should give it away but like I said, it's very convincing. The telephone numbers would work and go to the right place or they'll be using other tricks. As we all know all Small Businesses can use all the financial help they can get, and government relief is important enough to them that the criminals are using these hooks.

With anything that is offering you money or has anything to do with that type of relief, you need to pause for thought and verify every link, every website, anything that you have to put payment details into, or create passwords, or verified passwords, double check that it is legitimate. Maybe move away from the email or message and do your due diligence to verify that it is genuine, because it's so easy to get caught out right now.

[SS]: I should have mentioned earlier but the sorts of scam business and phishing emails has got so bad that even the UK's National Cyber Security Centre has produced reports and guidance on this. In fact, one report mentions an increase in scam email traffic by over 60% since the Coronavirus.

PPE Opportunities

Apart from government relief, another example of the scam phishing email is around PPE equipment. In terms of PPE equipment, there's subject headers like buy from us, where the emails will say, if you need equipment, buy it from us and they'll guarantee that they can make any and every delivery, etc. These are just sent out even though you're not a health body or related to health, basically they're trying to offer a business opportunities for you to sell equipment because they're giving you first access to it so that you can make some money on the back of current situation.

The reality is that you'd probably end up buying equipment that's not relevant, or that's not what you thought it was, or it's equipment that's totally substandard or isn't what it's supposed to be, or it's just a complete scam that you pay money for something and you won't get anything delivered to you for that money.

There're all sorts of these buy from us business opportunities and there's those that are related to the PPE, where they send messages Thank you for your order, Thank you for ordering this equipment. If you want to correct it, please use the attached Form, and that's where you will click on a link and you will accidentally be downloading malware or Accept this purchase order, where there's malware in the purchase order. 

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