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 Security Officer, BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is the Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. He is a founding member of the industry group Transparency in Cyber, and in 2020 was elected to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) Executive Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust security and governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for global periodicals and media. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition where he served as a Product Owner and Solutions Engineer since 2004. Prior to eEye, he was Beta Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. 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.