Cyber wire fraud via email had increased during the last seven months of last year, according to a new warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a warning to businesses covered by Reuters, the FBI said bad guys used email and pretended to be from real businesses to try and steal $5.3 billion from October of 2013 through December of 2016. The schemes are known as business email compromises.
In a previous report, the FBI had said thieves tried to steal $3.1 billion from October of 2013 through May of 2016, showing a big increase in attempts in the last seven months of 2016. The number of cases in which hackers asked for transfers via emails that looked like they were from senior-level executives or business suppliers nearly doubled from May to December, rising to 40,203 from 22,143, noted the report. The FBI did not say how much money the bad guys were able to steal.
Robert Holmes, a security professional for Proofpoint Inc. told Reuters that what the FBI reported on is just 20 percent of the total and that the losses could be as much as double what the FBI reported. Holmes said the sophistication of the bad guys is increasing as they target corporate financial departments to find suspects.
“This is not a volume play; it’s a carefully researched play,” he told Reuters. Reuters also noted that the U.S. is the largest target for hackers, although they have also been expanding into Australia, Britain, France and Germany.
Based on the FBI report, Reuters said around one in four U.S. victims respond by actually wiring money to the hackers, and in some of those incidents, the FBI has been able to find the crimes in a fast enough time frame to help the victims get the funds back from the banks before the criminals get the money out.