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Everything You Need To Know About Impersonation Attack

March 31, 2021 | Cyber Security, Cyberattack, Knowledge Base

Everything You Need To Know About Impersonation Attack

Impersonation cyber-attack is on the rise and here is everything you need to know about such cyberattacks

Impersonation attacks are one of the fastest-growing cyberattacks in the world. Impersonation attack works on all types of markets, and company sizes as the effectiveness of these attacks have gone up considerably after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. 

How Does Impersonation Cyber-Attack Work?

Impersonation attacks are those malicious acts in which cybercriminals impersonate a trusted company or individual to deceive people. These attacks are executed via emails and phone calls. 

The most common type of impersonation attack is called Business Email Compromise (BEC) that is used differently in distinctive scenarios. One of the most commonly used BEC attacks is known as CEO fraud. Here the attacker pretends to be one of the top C-suite executives of the company like the CEO (Chief Executive Officer, CFO (Chief Finance Officer), President or Vice President to access desired information or influence to take action. 

To execute impersonation attacks, the criminal will not only study the victim's profile. They will also try to understand who the partners and coworkers are, how they work, and their routine.

With the help of information available on the internet, including company websites, social media profiles, public acknowledgement like winning awards, it's possible to identify who the C-suite executives are and who is possibly the victim's boss. 

It's also possible to check the company's closest partners, such as suppliers. It's social engineering again providing tools and data to perfect the impersonation scam and get impactful results. 

What Are The Different Types Of Impersonation Attack Tactics?


Photo: Real example of email impersonation attack targeted at an employee and the president of a small business.

Fake Email Account Attack: The criminals use a valid free email account such as Google, Hotmail or Yahoo to fool the receiver. For example, if your CEO's name is John Smith, the sender's name will appear as John Smith, but the email address may appear like 

Forged Envelop Sender attack: The cybercriminals use a known company's domain to bypass the mail server's filters and lure their victims. For example, if the company they are exploiting is Spotify, the email address may appear like

Forged Header Sender attack: This is the act of forging email addresses. This can happen basically in two ways. First, when an attacker hacks an email account and uses it to commit fraud.

Second, when the attacker creates a similar email address or falsifies some part of an email to imply that the message is legitimate. The email spoofing purpose is to gain the recipient's trust. That involves social engineering, spam campaigns, and phishing and spear-phishing scams.

Compromised email account attack: The cybercriminals use a compromised email account, probably infected with malware, to attack the targeted receiver. Here both the sender and the receiver are the victims of a cyberattack. 

How To Prevent Impersonation Cyberattack Due To Human Errors

Three ways to prevent being a victim of impersonation cyberattack due to human errors

Email impersonation attack: If the email contents suspiciously show urgency or ask for sensitive information, check the email for minor details. Here is a sample of how to identify suspicious emails. Secondly, call the sender and double-check the authenticity of the email before taking any action. 

Phone impersonation attack: When a phone call from a known and trusted seems suspicious, it is always a good idea to offer a call back to the caller. Calling them back on the phone number in your records will help you manually authenticate the caller's legitimacy. 

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