A company's goodwill is a valuable asset that cannot be measured but adds immense value to its balance sheets. However, with brand impersonation rising, companies are hard-pressed to keep their goodwill intact, including customer loyalty and brand recognition. Cybercriminals impersonate brands to propagate malware, commit advertising fraud, business email compromise (BEC), phishing, and other social engineering attacks. Such tactics cause irreparable harm to a company's reputation. In this environment, it is paramount for CISOs to safeguard their company's good reputation. This article provides an overview of how brand imitation scams work and ways to guard against them.
What is a brand impersonation attack?
Brand impersonation attacks are a type of cyberattack that impersonates a trusted brand, enterprise, organization, or business to ultimately trick target users into disclosing sensitive details or personal information. Attackers may receive financial rewards, be employed by other companies, or act independently to harm the brand's reputation or steal a victim's confidential information.
Brand impersonation is also known as brand spoofing. Security researchers say it is one of the most successful types of cyberattacks since people tend to trust reputable brand names blindly or without too much thought. For example, imagine you are making an online purchase, and a window with your bank's logo and forms asks for your credit card details. Most people wouldn't think twice about inputting that information as it seems genuine, but this could be an attacker trying to access confidential banking credentials.
According to research reports, 25 percent of enterprises receive spoofed branded emails. Keepnet Labs reported that 1 in 3 employees clicks malicious links in phishing emails, and 1 in 8 employees shares the information as requested over these illegitimate emails. According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, numerous users have lost over US$ 2 billion due to brand-impersonating scams since 2017.
How do these attacks work?
Brand impersonation scams usually involve setting up fake websites, email accounts, logos, and social media pages that appear to be genuine. Attackers may also hijack legitimate accounts by sending malicious links or stealing account credentials through phishing emails. Additionally, they may use social engineering tactics such as creating false offers and discounts or using fake reviews to lure customers. Once the victim has been lured in, attackers can easily steal personal information or payment details. Alternatively, they may use the stolen data to commit fraud or even sabotage a company’s reputation.
Stealing the brand and damaging the reputation
Brand impersonation scams not only destroy customer trust and loyalty but also threaten sales, existing business operations as well as potential new ventures.
Marliis Reinkort, the CEO and founder of Code Galaxy—an online coding school for kids—says, "We have had a close shave with brand impersonation at Code Galaxy. Someone created a business profile—website, social media profiles, and everything—with our brand identity. They went to advertise the same services we offer at ridiculously lower prices. Only, they didn't even offer the services. They simply made away with the money." Code Galaxy is just an example of the havoc brand impersonation can wreak. "The reputational damage dealt a huge blow to the business for a while," she adds.
The use of cyber threats is ever-increasing, and so is the need for CISOs to stay informed about new attack vectors that can harm their organizations' reputations. Protecting your brand name is important to ensure customer trust and loyalty. Here are some ways you can protect your company from brand impersonation attacks:
Monitor social media channels: Make sure that all the social media accounts of your company are regularly monitored for any suspicious activity related to your brand. If someone is using an identical or similar name or logo, make sure to report it immediately.
Monitor search engines: Track brand mentions and keywords related to your business. If there are any unauthorized websites or other malicious entities posing as your company, contact the respective platforms and provide evidence of infringement.
Educate employees: According to a report, 95% of security-related issues occur due to errors by internal employees. By training employees adequately, businesses can prevent a large chunk of brand impersonation attacks. Enterprise should provide an employee manual about the dos and don'ts.
Safeguard your company's domain: Most fraudsters wait for domain expiration and buy them. Thus, companies face massive losses when the domain becomes unavailable. One way to tackle this is by setting up an auto-renew on the domain.
Check for similar domains: Check the web for websites with similar domain names with different top-level domains (.com, .org, .co, and .tech).
IR team and takedown requests: CISOs should adopt a proactive approach to prevent brand-impersonating attacks. You can hire a dedicated incident response (IR) team to handle such issues or delegate the task to your IT team. Also, CISOs might need to orchestrate mitigation efforts through approaches like website (fake) takedown requests and communication with registrars for legal actions.
Brand impersonation attacks affect brand reputation and cause monetary and reputational losses. To minimize the impact of such attacks, businesses need to be vigilant and proactive in their strategy. They must monitor social media channels, search engines, and similar domains to identify suspicious activities related to their brand. Additionally, enterprises should educate employees about cyber threats and implement takedown policies. This will help them protect the company's brand identity while avoiding fraud and reputational damage.
The best defence against brand impersonation is being proactive and taking the necessary steps to protect your company's reputation. Doing so will help you maintain customer trust and loyalty and ensure business continuity.