What is CEO Fraud Phishing Attack and how to Prevent It

CEO Fraud phishing attack

What is CEO Fraud Phishing Attack and how to Prevent It

CEO fraud can be described as a complicated email scam that is used by hackers and cybercriminals to track business staff or employees into making money transfers or sharing confidential business information. During a CEO fraud phishing attack, cybercriminals send emails impersonating the CEO of the target company. They may also target other executives in the company.

In most cases, hackers or cyber attackers ask employees, who are in the accounting or HR department, to send a wire transfer during CEO fraud phishing attacks. CEO fraud, which is also called BEC or Business Email Compromise, makes use of compromised or spoofed emails accounts to trick recipients into taking an action.

The social engineering cyberattack technique, CEO fraud heavily relies on gaining the trust of email recipients. Cybercriminals who are launching CEO fraud phishing attacks are well aware that most people do not look closely at the email address while others fail to notice minor spelling mistakes in the email address of the sender.

Most of the CEO fraud phishing emails use urgent and familiar language while making it evident that recipients are doing a huge favor by helping out the sender. In other words, cybercriminals who are launching such attacks prey on our desire to help and trust one another. The technique of CEO fraud usually starts with spear phishing, phishing, BEC, and the impersonation of company executives.

Interesting Stats Related to CEO Fraud

If you are familiar with the cybersecurity field, then you would have probably heard several businesses asking how common CEO fraud is and should they be concerned about it. CEO fraud attacks have become very common over the last few years. Cybercriminals and hackers are aware that most people have a full email inbox, which will make it easy for them to catch individuals off-guard and urge them to respond or take action.

As per the FBI and the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center), CEO fraud is a 12-billion-dollar scam. According to statistics collected by the IC3 from October 2013 to May 2018, approximately 78617 international and domestic CEO fraud incidents were reported, which has resulted in the loss of 13 billion dollars.

CEO fraud is a global cybercrime that has no boundaries, and it can impact businesses of all sizes and types. Therefore, it is crucial for business staff and employees to realize the need to verify the name and email address of the email sender and carefully check the contents of emails.

How CEO Fraud Happens

There are four common CEO fraud attack methods. Businesses that want to stay from CEO fraud will need to clearly know about these attacks so that they can get prepared.

1. Phishing

Cybercriminals simultaneously send phishing emails to several users to fish or steal confidential data by impersonating themselves as reliable or reputable sources. They may even use legitimate-looking business logos with the email to trick email recipients.

2. Spear Phishing

The technique of spear-phishing involves sending a spear-phishing email to either a group of people or just one person who uses a specific service or bank. Hackers usually collect information on target groups or individuals through social media platforms and use it to con users.

3. Executive Whaling

Executive whaling is a type of CEO fraud, where cybercriminals target administrators and top executives of businesses for stealing confidential business data or simply siphon off money.

4. Social Engineering

Social engineering can be defined as using psychological manipulation to trick users into sharing confidential data or giving access to their funds. Social engineering includes the practice of mining information from Facebook, Linkedin, and other social media platforms.

Tips To Prevent CEO Fraud

There are several simple yet effective techniques that can help CEOs, business executives, and employees from CEO fraud, and some of the best ones are listed below.

  • Properly educate and train your employees about the four types of CEO fraud techniques. You can use free phishing simulation tools to help employees easily identify CEO fraud, social engineering, and phishing risks.
  • Phishing simulation platforms and security awareness training can be used to educate employees of CEO fraud attacks
  • Campaigns and communications with your team on social engineering, CEO fraud, and cyber security will prevent the chance of falling prey to such attacks
  • Businesses should consider establishing strict network access rules, which will minimize personal device use and reduce information sharing with people who are outside of your business network
  • Ensuring that operating systems, applications, internal software solutions, and network tools are secure and up-to-date

Also Read: How to Protect your Organization from Phishing Attacks


It is integral for businesses to realize that the best way to help employees understand and raise awareness of CEO fraud risks is through phishing simulation. Real-world examples are interactively used in phishing simulation, which will enable employees to gain an in-depth understanding of such threats.

Talk to our expert Cybersecurity and IT Risk Assurance team to learn more about CEO fraud and similar attacks and different cybersecurity solutions you should implement for securing your business.

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