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According to Websense, these attacks are low tech. The fraudsters register "typo squatting" domains that look like the target company's domain, but are subtly different. They then set up e-mails at the typo squatted domain designed to mirror legitimate executive email accounts. Like many phishing scams, these attacks rely on the similarities of the domains and often extensive knowledge of key players within the company, creating e-mails that are highly convincing to recipients.
The key element of their attack is – simply – "obeisance," Websense notes. "When the CEO or CFO tells you to do something, you do it." The messages were brief and urgent, included (phony) threads involving other company executives and demanded updates on the progress of the transfer, making the request seem more authentic. Rather than ask the executive for clarification (or scrutinize the FROM line), the employees found it easier to just wire the money to the specified account, Websense reports.
Websense notes the similarities between the technique used in the latest phishing attack and the grain trading firm Scoular in June, 2014. That company was tricked into wiring some $17 million to a bank in China, with employees believing they were acting on the wishes of executives who had communicated through e-mail.