Those days are long gone when thieves only targeted stealing physical assets such as physical money or expensive items. Today is the time of “cyber thieves” who know stealing confidential information of business entities, and impersonating them has far higher benefits.
Business identity theft involves malicious attackers impersonating the owner, officials, or staff of a business entity to get loans, credit, or other financial benefits. And the burden of the financial credit rests on the business entity. They use various methods to accomplish it, such as social engineering techniques and so on. And, the unauthorized access to information usually goes unnoticed until the loss is massive for the business.
How Do Identity Thieves Operate?
Identity thieves usually start their work by stealing an organization’s financial information, such as the bank account details, credit card numbers, and tax identification number. They may also get the personal information of officials in the organization. Using the businesses’ creditworthiness and reputation, the identity thieves then obtain loans and credits posing as the representative of the business entity. They cash out the allowed credit amounts quickly. The organization comes to know about the fraud much later when a payment default notice reaches them.
Why Do Identity Thieves Target Businesses
It is necessary to think from the malicious actors’ perspective to understand the benefits they gain using stolen business credentials and information. Identity theft related to businesses has more benefits compared to that of an individual, as summarized below.
Huge bank balances
In contrast to ordinary personal accounts, business accounts usually contain substantial bank balances, and thus access to it is more lucrative.
Flexible payment and invoicing policies
Business accounts are allowed more time for payments. They can pay dues at a later date, usually 10 to 15 days after booking the order. Malicious actors use it as an opportunity to conduct malicious activities without getting detected.
Flexible large purchases
Due to higher credit availability with a business account, large purchases can be made quickly without much legal formalities and delays. For example, it is not unusual for businesses to purchase ten computers at a time. For this reason, business identity theft is the perfect opportunity for the procurement of goods of high value.
Small and medium businesses are always prone to business identity theft due to the lack of technical and skilled resources and financial limitations. As for such enterprises, performing daily account review and up-to-date cybersecurity solution upgradations may not be practical.
Be it a multinational conglomerate, or an SME, businesses have to remain to be transparent. And for this reason, cyber attackers can easily obtain sensitive information from records such as tax reports and then impersonate any business. Moreover, data is also available on the dark web (in case there was a significant past breach), and public records open under government bodies for larger businesses.
Sophistication in the investigation
Due to layered penetration techniques and complex business identity theft tools, cybersecurity professionals find it difficult to collect evidence and conduct proper examinations to figure out the point of penetration the cyber adversary used.
How To Fight Business Identity Theft?
Frequently monitoring the business information is the key to reducing damages caused by business identity theft. In addition to that, the following measures also ensure defending against identity theft.
- Personal and business credit monitoring: Personal and business credit should be regularly monitored to identify any suspicious or unknown financial transactions. Moreover, it is crucial to understand that personal credit damages could also affect business credit if they are connected.
- Business records: All user details should be accurate and updated regularly. Users should check for any inaccurate information that cyber attackers could exploit and make unauthorized fund transfers.
- Industry resources: Organizations are always recommended to use automatic business notification systems to alert users of any transaction. Such notification systems allow them to perform relevant mitigation measures at the right time if the transactions are unauthorized.
- State records: Periodically monitor and update business and state license records with the state, country, and city registrar institutions. Such modifications can also be done using online websites for regular updating.
Two Areas To Consider
Besides the points mentioned above, organizations are also advised to focus on the below areas for ensuring maximum security.
- Contact details: Information such as name, phone number, address, email ID, and website must be checked periodically. Any irregularity in any given information should be rectified immediately, and appropriate mitigation measures should be implemented.
- New Accounts: If there are new accounts under a business name, it could have been opened by malicious actors under the existing business for illegal actions. Such activities must be stopped immediately, and associated accounts should also be checked for irregularities.
Usually, identity theft begins when attackers use social engineering techniques on employees or clients to gain unauthorized access. As such, associated entities to any organization must receive relevant training and awareness to avoid such cyber incidents that could put the organization in significant reputational or financial losses.
To conclude, business theft activities can be avoided to some extent by continuous monitoring of business and personal accounts. Weak passwords are another loophole exploited to a significant extent by malicious actors; hence following tips as simple as using a strong way can go a long way in securing organizational networks from malicious actors.