Social Engineering Hasn’t Changed, but the Tactics HaveThe social engineering aspects of installing malware have been the same for the last 19 years. The goal is to convince an unsuspecting user to open a file, click on a link, or perform some action that executes malware or leverages an exploit. Once the deed is done, the threat actor has a beachhead. One thing that has changed is the nature of phishing emails. Preying on someone with “I Love You” seems trivial compared to a modern spear phishing email from a colleague asking you to review a document or wire money to an account. The difference is, 19 years ago these attacks were done for fun or to cause a disruption – just because a hacker could. Today, the goal is political, hacktivism, or to just plainly make money. That’s the difference. The love for an attack is for a purpose and no longer a gag or silly passion of gloating rights. Threat actors have changed the binary nature of an attack from “because I could” to “I did because”, and this is why as security professionals we need to remember the past in order to adjust for future threats. It is a simple history lesson. So where is this blog going? Most of us have a love for our country but loath paying taxes. It is one of those binary evils that is required to sustain our government and way of life. Threat actors however do not care and have preyed for years on IRS scams and methods to extort tax refunds and payments from individuals. The latest round is the exact opposite of love, fear or anger. Take a look at the voice mail transcription below from a threat actor posing as the IRS (a secret admirer): For this to succeed, there are several variations of the scam that leverage a message like this:
- Unexpected refund deposits to your bank account using compromised bank routing information
- Suspicious paper checks coming in the United States Postal Service (USPS) from fake sources claiming to be the IRS
- A fraudulent refund check being deposited by compromised or stolen smartphone
Morey J. Haber, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Security Officer at BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored four Apress books: Privileged Attack Vectors (2 Editions), Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. In 2018, Bomgar acquired BeyondTrust and retained the BeyondTrust name. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust strategy for privileged access management and remote access solutions. In 2004, he joined eEye as Director of Security Engineering and was responsible for strategic business discussions and vulnerability management architectures in Fortune 500 clients. Prior to eEye, he was Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. (CA), responsible for new product beta cycles and named customer accounts. He began his career as Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.