In 2021, the U.S. Congress introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to improve roads and create more American jobs. As congress discussed the bill, opportunistic scammers launched an email phishing campaign posing as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
The scammers used email address spoofing to make their emails look legitimate, inviting recipients to click on embedded links and provide their personal information to bid on (fake) projects. Unfortunately, because companies knew changes and opportunities were arising from the infrastructure bill, they didn’t even question the legitimacy of the supposed-DOT email.
This scam was incredibly successful because it capitalized on a widely known current event, used spoof email addresses that looked legitimate and directed individuals to a website that was, at first glance, almost indistinguishable from the actual DOT website. Although this campaign was uncovered quickly and advisories were issued, threat actors adapted their tactics and rebooted the scam in 2022, with even more convincing URLs and credentials.
As technology becomes increasingly complex and refined, so do the methods used in cyber scams and other types of fraud. So, how do you protect your company from potential losses, downtime, or compromised data?
Here we’ll dive into one of the most common forms of cyber scams – email spoofing – to help you identify fraud attempts and keep your data and finances safe.
What is email spoofing?
Spoofing is a term used in cybersecurity settings to describe the act of impersonating an entity in order to gain someone’s trust and often, access to their finances or data.
In email spoofing, the “spoof” appears in the form of a false email header. As a result, recipients will see an email in their inbox that appears to be from a legitimate, familiar source.
Email spoofs impersonate real entities to trick recipients into:
- Providing personal information
- Divulging sensitive data
- Giving permission to access a computer system
- Inadvertently downloading some type of malware
Email spoofs can be incredibly disruptive for trucking businesses and can lead to major hardships. These can include financial loss, data breaches, loss of reputation and operational interruptions.
Spoofing vs. phishing: What’s the difference?
If you’ve read this far and started thinking, “Email spoofing sounds a lot like phishing.”, you’d be correct!
Phishing refers to the act of using any type of impersonation with the intent of obtaining information or money. But phishing can also be done via text messages, fake websites or other digital outlets. Email spoofing typically has the same desired effect as phishing — the sender wants the recipient to take an action that benefits the scammer. But it is only performed by forging email credentials.
How email spoofing can impact your trucking company
Let’s dig a little deeper into the types of disruption a well-executed email spoof can cause:
Financial losses. You may have seen this type of email spoof before. The message comes from an email address that appears legitimate, and the logo and letterhead look like the real thing. It says that your invoice is due and that you can just “click here” to pay. The email is a scam, but because it appears to come from a trusted source, recipients are often tricked into following through. Scams like these can cause significant financial losses.
- Data breaches. Some email spoofs aren’t looking for money, but rather information. Scammers lean on their credentials to trick recipients into giving away customer information, financial records or other intellectual property. This, in turn, can mean identity theft, financial fraud, legal liabilities and severe reputational damage (more on that below).
- Business disruption. Regardless of what your scammer is looking for, falling victim to an email spoofing scam will likely put a halt to your operations and lead to even more financial losses.
- Increased security costs. Most companies immediately react to email spoofing attacks with a combination of containment measures and increased security to prevent future incidents. These precautions could include advanced anti-malware software, additional employee education, upgrades to IT systems or security audits.
- Reputational damage. Phishing attack disruptions have a ripple effect — your downtime impacts your customers, partners and vendors. And if scammers targeted their information in the attack, they may be at risk as well. The reputational damage caused by just one email attack may mean business and financial losses for years to come.
How to guard against email spoofing
While there are things you can do behind the scenes to filter out phishing emails, some email spoofs are convincing enough to get through. When this happens, it’s up to individual recipients to review messages critically and look out for telltale signs of a scam.
If you’re unsure if an email is a spoof, it’s recommended you:
- Review the email address closely. Is it from someone you’ve worked with before? Look for signs like poor spelling, poor grammar, logos or colors that appear slightly wrong or other inconsistencies.
- Critically examine the email’s content. Does the content of the message ask for any personal information? If so, call the company to verify whether it’s real.
- Look for “too good to be true” deals. If the email offer is too good to be true, or only available for a brief window of time, this is a red flag. Do some investigating before you click anything.
- Don’t click on unverified links. You should handle any emails that come from an unverified contact, or that show any of the red flags listed above, with caution. Don’t click any links, as they could download malicious software.
As technology continues to evolve (and AI enters the landscape), cybersecurity awareness is more important than ever. The experts at RTS can help trucking companies stay up to date on the latest industry trends and security best practices to ensure their protection and success. Contact us today to discover all the ways we can help your business.