BEC Attacks Increase By 279% in Healthcare

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Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks in the healthcare sector have seen a 279% increase this year, shows a new report published by Abnormal Security.

The data also suggests a 167% increase in advanced email attacks, including BEC, credential phishing, malware and extortion.

Further, the average number of advanced email attacks per 1000 mailboxes in the healthcare sector started the year at 55.66 in January 2023 and peaked at over 100 in March. 

Although the numbers have stabilized at approximately 61.16 attacks per 1000 mailboxes for the rest of the year, historical trends suggest a potential increase during the holiday season.

While not as voluminous as some other email threats, BEC attacks pose the most significant financial risks, Abnormal explained.

The FBI reports that the average financial loss per BEC attack is $125,000. These attacks are increasingly dangerous because they are often text-based, sent from legitimate domains and lack typical indicators of compromise.

One example included in the Abnormal Security report illustrates the potential harm of such threats. In an email impersonating the president and CEO of a healthcare network, an attacker requested updated aging statements for customers, including email addresses for the account payables department. 

Responding to such an innocuous-seeming email could result in the attacker gaining access to critical financial information and potentially diverting payments, causing substantial losses to the healthcare network.

Read more on attacks against the healthcare industry: NextGen Healthcare Data Breach: One Million Patient Records Affected

As the year progresses, the healthcare industry should prepare for a continued increase in email attacks, Abnormal wrote. 

“If 2022 is any indication, the healthcare industry should be prepared for an additional influx of attacks in the latter half of this year,” warned Mike Britton, CISO of Abnormal Security.

“Fortunately, there are solutions available to prevent these attacks from reaching doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff. By embracing sophisticated cloud email security, healthcare organizations can dramatically improve their cybersecurity practices.”

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