What To Know About the Phishing Attacks Using MPN Accounts

Cyberattacks targeting businesses grow more sophisticated — and more costly — every year. In 2021, IBM found that 17% ...

Cyberattacks targeting businesses grow more sophisticated — and more costly — every year. In 2021, IBM found that 17% of corporate data breaches arose from phishing attacks, and the average data breach cost a company $4.2 million. Recent phishing scams have fraudulently progressed through Microsoft's Cloud Partner Program to obtain falsely "verified" Microsoft Partner Network accounts. Here's what these sophisticated phishing techniques may mean for your business.

unsplash - stock - cyberattack-2What Are Phishing Attacks?

In a phishing attack, a cybercriminal impersonates a trusted source to obtain sensitive information. Some phishing attempts trick targets into entering sensitive information, such as a username and password in a fake login screen. Other phishing attempts trick employees into giving the scammer permission to access sensitive information. There are also trapped hyperlinks that deliver sensitive information to a scammer when clicked.

As part of a phishing scam, a scammer may send out thousands of fraudulent emails to employees at all levels of a business. The term "phishing" comes from how these scams wait for someone to "take the bait" and fall for the fraudulent prompt. Recently, these attacks have become shockingly sophisticated.

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How Are Recent Phishing Attacks Using MPN Accounts?

With the recent MPN phishing scams, cyber attackers impersonated real businesses to appear verified in the Microsoft Partner Network. The scammers progressed through all of Microsoft's Cloud Partner verification systems by pretending to be app development companies. This allowed their fraudulent emails to come from legitimate-looking MPN accounts.

These emails displayed convincing fake versions of commonly used business applications. Phishers' fake OAuth apps had names such as 'Meeting' instead of "Teams." They used real logos from applications such as Zoom to look like new Office 365 applications.

Unlike other phishing attacks that target Office 365 login information, these advanced attacks took a more subtle approach to accessing confidential data. There was no login box to type in credentials in the email. Instead, the fake applications asked for permissions from users, such as permission to read emails or access contact lists.

Many legitimate applications ask for similar security permissions in quick pop-up windows on a daily basis. It was easy for a busy employee to click "allow" on a real-looking application's prompt without a second thought. In some cases, this gave phishing attackers access to employees' email inboxes for an entire year.

What Makes Advanced Phishing Attacks So Dangerous?

There is a huge financial cost to corporate data breaches. Recent reports estimate that the average phishing data breach in 2022 cost a business $4.91 million. Phishing often compromises confidential information, such as medical records and credit card numbers, eroding public trust in a business and leading to major revenue losses.

Cybercriminals target businesses of all sizes, from enterprise-level global corporations to SMBs. With phishing on the rise in 2023, it's time to reevaluate your company's cybersecurity plan.

How Can a Company Defend Against Advanced Phishing Attacks?

Smart strategies make it harder for sophisticated phishing scams, such as the recent scam using MPN accounts, to cause a data breach. Thorough preparation can stop a cyberattack before it damages your business.

Update Training Frequently

It's more important than ever to invest in updated cybersecurity training for all employees with access to sensitive information. Phishing scams often target everyone from mid-level office workers to CEOs. Make sure executives receive strong cybersecurity training at least once every six months.

The MPN account scams prove that it's difficult to identify phishing attacks from a skilled cybercriminal. Many corporate training programs only mention the risk of entering login information, but scammers have become savvier. Train employees to pause before clicking "allow" in any context or following any links in emails, even if the email seems to come from a reputable source.

Use Microsoft Defender

Microsoft Defender is a cybersecurity solution for Office 365. Defender allows a business to set password checks and extra verifications that make it harder for scammers to impersonate high-level employees. Defender can send simulated phishing emails as a test, as well. These tests give insight into how well employees identify phishing scams.

Shorten Breach Response Time

Identifying a breach as soon as possible can help curb major damage, similar to how detecting a serious disease early on can improve a patient's outlook. IBM's 2021 breach report found that the "data breach lifecycle" — the time from the initial breach to the fix and containment — has become longer in recent years. Average times hovered around 250 days, giving scammers over eight months to use and distribute confidential information.

Prepare ahead of time for the possibility of attacks in the coming year. Form a dedicated breach response team no matter the size of your business. Emerging artificial intelligence tools can also scan a company's data or emails for traces of a breach to shorten identification time.

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How Can a Company Find Help Stopping Phishing Attacks and Increasing Cybersecurity?

Cloudficient has helped hundreds of businesses improve their cybersecurity measures, from medium-sized businesses to global enterprise-level corporations. If your digital infrastructure could use an update, our advanced migration technologies can get your business back on track with new security features in Office 365.

Microsoft's newest software solutions defend confidential information against phishing attacks while also improving overall productivity. Microsoft Authenticator, Microsoft Defender and new anti-impersonation technology in Microsoft Teams integrate seamlessly into an Office 365 suite. If you haven't yet moved your business to the cloud, secure Microsoft Cloud technology can further protect your business's data against loss and theft. Cloudficient is passionate about finding scalable and customized solutions for any business. Contact us for information on migration, legacy data management, cybersecurity and other technology solutions.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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