Cybersecurity Ventures: Yes, Even a Shark Can Get Phished!

Cybercrime Magazine connected with Shark Tank star and Herjavec Group Founder & CEO Robert Herjavec to discuss the news of his co-star, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran being phished for nearly $400K.

Check out our Q&A below and learn more about how you can mitigate Business Email Compromise before it impacts your team.

Give us the backstory, exactly what exactly happened to Barbara?

Barbara’s team fell victim to a sophisticated phishing attack. Her bookkeeper received a request for a wire transfer that seemed legitimate. She validated the information by emailing back and forth with the “sender” who she believed to be Barbara’s personal assistant. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize that there was only one letter missing from the correct email and authorized a wire transfer or over $380K.

It was only later when an email was sent to the correct address with a few additional questions that the team realized a mistake had been made. Unfortunately, it was too late and the funds were gone. Initial investigation has shown the attack originated from Chinese IP.

Is there anything she or her team could have done to prevent it?

We say it all the time but this is the perfect example of humans being the weakest link. It’s truly unfortunate but I commend Barbara and her people for wanting to share this story in order to make more people aware of how these attacks are maturing, and how diligent you really need to be.

Business email compromises are on the rise – accounting for approximately 50% of cybercrime damages in 2019 according to the FBI. That’s over $1.7B. We also know that over 90% of phishing campaigns contain some form of ransomware so making sure we mitigate the risks of phishing and improve security awareness across our teams, is critical.

To prevent an attack of this nature I recommend:

  1. Being diligent in verifying the sender name, email, and source. This attack occurred because just one letter was out of place. Phishing attacks today aren’t just full of bad grammar and poor spelling. We have moved well beyond that so we need the recipients to be extra diligent before opening, clicking or downloading any content from an untrusted source.
  2. Always have voice verification in place, particularly when it comes to large wire transfers. Had Barbara’s team had a voice protocol (or even text message) to confirm the authorization on the wire, versus simply relying on email communication for approval, this situation could have been avoided.
  3. Develop a protocol with your financial institution to contact a finance team representative (CFO, VP, etc) to approve any transfer over a certain amount.
  4. In the event you believe you have been targeted or have sent a wire to an unintended source, notify your bank within 48 hours for domestic transfers or 24 hours for international transfers to put a stop on the send.
  5. Advance your internal security protocols and educate your teams. I recommend:
    • Use multi-factor authentication for any corporate applications
    • Ensure external email monitoring is set up on your corporate network to showcase when communications are from External vs. Internal sender
    • Network administrators should block all attachments from being downloaded onto corporate devices.
    • Whitelist acceptable file extensions as this list will be smaller and easier to manage.
    • Beware of being emotionally exploited by hackers for natural disaster or terror attack relief funds as they take advantage of people’s goodwill and use phishing emails to ask for ‘donations’.
    • Conduct random internal phishing tests for your employees to test how likely they are to fall for phishing scams.
    • Always check the spelling of the URLs in email links before you click or enter sensitive information
    • Watch out for URL redirects, where you’re subtly sent to a different website with identical design
    • Validate the sender name, email address and source diligently – including spelling
    • If you receive an email from a source you know but it seems suspicious, contact that source with a new email, rather than just hitting reply. Even better – call them!
    • Don’t post personal data, like your birthday, vacation plans, or your address or phone number, publicly on social media
    • “Sandboxing” inbound email, checking the safety of each link a user clicks
    • Inspecting and analyzing web traffic
    • Pen-testing your organization to find weak spots and use the results to educate employees
    • Partner with a 3rd party service provider for 24/7 Threat Monitoring and Managed Phishing Support
    • Look to automate your email gateway responses by leveraging SOAR tools to advance your phishing playbooks

What do you advise her and anyone going forward?

This is a really unfortunate incident but we are talking about it so we all learn and remain diligent.

Security Awareness is no joke. As business leaders, we are accountable for training our people to be diligent and protecting them with proactive cyber tools wherever possible. Even a Shark can get phished – it can happen to anyone! So be diligent, test your teams, put the processes and tools in place to detect fraudulent activity and slow down. Take the right steps so you aren’t the next victim of a phishing attack or business email compromise.

To watch Robert and Barbara speaking about this incident on Good Morning America, click here.