What to watch out for in the latest email scams

As the end of financial year approaches, businesses need to be aware that experts warn email scams are likely to become more frequent, and the emails at the centre of those scams are looking more and more credible.

A fake company name renewal notice, purporting to be from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and distributed in May, has caught thousands of businesses off guard.

Businesses are always time poor, but the end of financial year adds to the workload and time pressure. Scammers are aware of this and see it as the perfect time to strike. So, as 30 June approaches, businesses beware!

What to look out for

In the case of the ASIC email scam, the message includes ASIC’s branding, privacy policy and a link to a ‘renewal letter’. When the link is clicked, the email recipient is directed to a website that downloads malware onto their computer. While the type of malware is unknown, chances are it’s a virus, ransomware or perhaps a keylogger, which facilitates the theft of the user’s login details.

The signatory to the email looks authentic, but the person does not exist as an employee of ASIC.

    The domain from which the attack originated is ‘australiangovernments.com’. The domain was registered from Hong Kong the day before the attack occurred.

    Security experts suggest attacks such as this are successful because of the speed with which domains can be registered and then used. Security software blocks domains based on their reputation. New domains have no reputation so will often pass through to tens of thousands of people, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, before they are reported as spam and security systems start blocking them. This is also why attacks such as this are often short-lived.

    The file that downloads when the link in the ASIC email is clicked is a .zip file. Businesses should never trust or open .zip files if they have not been sent by a trusted source. While unopened .zip files do not cause harm, opened .zip files can install malicious software on to your computer.

    So, as the end of financial year approaches, take care and think twice before following the call to action as suggested in an email. If in doubt, go to the sender’s website and try to verify the email’s authenticity, contact the sender by phone or contact your IT department for advice.

    Other recent email scams have included the Australian Taxation Office and Australia Post. Remember,  Everyone is at risk business owners, CEOs, CFOs, bookkeepers and accounts people too who are rushing to process payments before 30 June.

      If you need any assistance with your cyber strategy or you don't know where to start please call us on 1300 478 738 or email us at info@suretyit.com.au.

      About the Author

      Geoff Stewart is a highly experienced and skilled Technology Director at Surety IT. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience having created customised, stable, well performing systems both for multi-national companies in the UK and Australia and Surety IT customers.

      Surety IT can help you create the right system to enhance your business, ensuring you know how it is right for you and how to use it. We will tailor a solution to suit your needs with leading systems, local support and more, building your vision for a more flexible and capable business.

      Call us today on 1300 478 738 or email info@suretyit.com.au to discuss your requirements.