1 of 3 Part Email Dangers Blog Series: Business Security – Vendor Exposure

By Mark Liapustin on Apr 18 2017

Certain industry types require extra security and data sensitivity. When you make your career in one of those fields you get used to certain standards when it comes to protecting the data that you process. But even the most diligent of us can inadvertently overlook securing sensitive information, or think the document that we’re emailing internally is relatively innocuous and not worthy of protecting.

In this four-part series, we’ll be talking about what you should be securing, encrypting, and tracking so that you can protect yourself, your business, and your clients.

What You Need to Know About Exposure — from Your Vendors

At every level of the organization, as long as an employee is picking up the phone, or sending and receiving emails, that employee is making security decisions for the organization every day. Despite the sophistication of technology and the cybercriminals that employ its use, old-fashioned social engineering is still the go-to resource for infiltrating an organization.

Let’s take a look at how a cybercriminal might use LinkedIn to breach your organization.

LinkedIn is actually one of the biggest resources for criminals seeking to subvert a company’s security. The nature of LinkedIn is for its users to remain open to they can be searched for by business connections, clients, and vendors. But that openness also exposes organizations to attack. The larger an employee’s social network increase their risk of attack as they build connections.

LinkedIn also makes it incredibly easy for a cybercriminal to impersonate a legitimate connection. Let’s say that you work for Acme Optics. Acme Optics has its own LinkedIn corporate page, so it’s fairly easy to determine what kind of service Acme Optics provides and what connections it’s making with other organizations, such as vendors and procurement sources (and remember — those connections are still made by humans at the ends of the terminals).

Our cybercriminal — we’ll call him Vlad — figures out that you work for Acme Optics, determines that Acme Optics gets its lenses from Shine Glass, and sends you a spoofed email from Shine. In three relatively simple steps, Vlad has convinced you to open an email and unknowingly download malware to your internal network.

One of the more insidious ways that Vlad may hurt your organization’s bottom line was discovered during the Yahoo breach, where auto-forward was turned on for thousands of accounts. These “set it and forget it” settings — that almost no one checks regularly — set Yahoo users’ up for years of exposure. Everything from grandma’s cookie recipe to last year’s tax filings was being auto-forwarded to hackers.

And that’s relatively easy to do on company servers, too — once you’ve been let in the back door via malware.

Fortunately, you can protect yourself and your organization by requiring your vendors send any attachments through a secure email lifecycle solution. By utilizing a secure solution, you can be assured that you and your vendors are protected through end-to-end secure email, lifecycle tracking, and dual validation technology.

Also, remember to “trust but verify.” Despite your familiarity with a vendor, even our most trusted associates are open to being spoofed. Vlad is depending on your trust to open that email. If you’re not sure why your vendor is sending you an attachment, pick up the phone and call to confirm that your vendor sent you an email. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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