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The Agari Cyber Intelligence Division (ACID) (https://acid.agari.com/) completed a six-month investigation by seeding more than 8,000 phishing sites mimicking Microsoft Account, Microsoft Office 365, and Adobe Document Cloud login screens. After successfully submitting credentials, the team linked individual phishing attacks to specific actors and their post-compromise actions in order to better understand the lifecycle of the compromised account.
Specific stats uncovered in the extensive research include:
- 91% of all accounts were manually accessed by threat actors within the first week
- Half of compromised accounts were accessed within the first 12 hours
- 23% of phishing sites used automated account validation techniques
- Threat actors were located in 44 countries worldwide, with 47% in Nigeria
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"Business email compromise or BEC remains the most prevalent threat in email security, and when cybercriminals gain access to legitimate email accounts, the problem is magnified," states Patrick Peterson, founder of Agari and executive strategy director at HelpSystems. "This research provides key insights into how cybercriminals use these accounts, and underscores the importance of securing your email environment against credential phishing attacks from the beginning."
In one instance, a threat actor used their compromised account to upload two financial documents to the associated OneDrive account—a rental balance sheet and wire instructions for their bank account. Based on the content of these documents, it's likely that they were intended to be used as part of a BEC attack, presumably one impersonating the real estate investment trust and targeting the senior living community operator, trying to trick them into paying more than $200,000 in outstanding rent.
To view a complete copy of the research findings, download the threat intelligence brief (https://www.agari.com/insights/whitepapers/anatomy-compromised-account/).
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