Widespread E-Mail Scams Targeting Faith-Based Organizations
and Local Government Employees
UPDATE ON THE PHISHING SCAM:
Over the last several weeks, employees of multiple local/municipal government and faith-based organizations, to include Jewish institutions, throughout the United States have received emails from individuals claiming to be members of the recipient’s organization or local community. There have been increased reports of these events over the last week.
In all reported incidents, the email begins with a request for a favor from the recipient. In incidents where the recipient has responded to the email, the sender claims to be unavailable, due to a meeting or other reason, and requests that the recipient purchase gift cards for a named retailer in specific monetary amounts. The sender further directs the recipient to provide the number and PIN information for the gift cards, via email, once the cards have been purchased.
In each incident, the email has been sent from a Gmail address created to mimic a legitimate organization email address. Additionally, all reported emails have contained signature blocks that are accurate to the institutions they are attempting to imitate.
A similar effort was reported by numerous organizations in July 2019.
CyberAttacks - Overview
The number of cyberattacks, to include ransomware demands and phishing emails, has risen steadily over the past few years. Hiscox, a global specialist insurer, conducted a review of cyber attack trends among firms spanning 15 business sectors, to include non-profit organizations, and found that in the United States in 2019, 53% of firms reported a cyberattack, as compared to 38% in 2018. They also found that smaller firms are increasingly likely to be targeted (47% reported one or more incidents in 2019, as compared to 33% in 2018).
Phishing techniques, and more recently, spear-phishing techniques, are common methods of cyberattacks. Such methods involve crafting messages, pretending to be sent from a trustworthy source, which in fact contain malicious links or documents allowing the cybercriminal to access systems and sensitive information. Spear phishing, which has become increasingly common in recent years, involves making malicious messages more personal, creating phishing emails with identifiable personal or corporate information. Under the guise of the messages being sent by a trusted source, the user is more likely to click on a malicious link or document.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
To ensure the safety and security of online information, the following steps are recommended:
Impact to the Jewish Community Recent events, to include the information contained in this report, demonstrate a continued interest by cybercriminals to target Jewish institutions, organizations, and interests with cyberattacks. Leadership and security personnel are encouraged to review and update cybersecurity policies and procedures on a regular basis in order to identify potential vulnerabilities, and train staff in recognizing potential harmful emails, links, and sites. SCN has been in touch with relevant partners and will continue to monitor events and provide updates, as necessary.
Follow established protocols to report suspicious activity – to include contacting local law enforcement and/or the relevant suspicious activity reporting authority – and contact the SCN Duty Desk at DutyDesk@securecommunitynetwork.org or by calling 844-SCN-DESK.