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Hackers focus on Office 365 business accounts

New research from Barracuda has shown that account takeover attacks are one of the fastest growing email security threats when hackers set their sights on Microsoft Office 365 accounts.

The IT security company recently analyzed attacks on account takeovers targeted at its customers to find that 29 percent of organizations had compromised their Office 365 accounts in March this year by hackers.

In March alone, more than 1.5 million malicious and spam emails were sent from hacked Office 365 accounts, with an emphasis on the potential consequences of this security threat.

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Hackers carried out takeover attacks on the account using a variety of methods, including reusing stolen login details, brute-force attacks, social engineering, phishing, and even texting to mislead their victims into providing their account details.

Attack account capture

Takeover attacks from Office 365 accounts begin with infiltration and many hackers mimic Microsoft and other large companies as a way to mislead users into disclosing their credentials. Microsoft is even the most imitated brand in the world with 1 in 3 attacks that imitate the company.

Once an account has been compromised, hackers rarely start an attack immediately. Instead, they monitor e-mail and follow company activities to maximize their chances of executing a successful attack.

A trick that scammers use to prevent detection is to set up mailbox rules to hide or delete emails they send from the infected account. According to Barracuda's March 2019 analysis, hackers have established malicious rules to hide their activities in 34 percent of nearly 4,000 compromised accounts.

After the exploration is complete, cyber criminals use the harvested credentials to target other valuable accounts in an organization where executives and employees of financial departments are the main goals. They also use compromised accounts to monetize attacks by stealing personal, financial, and confidential data to use for identity theft, fraud, and other crimes.

To protect your company from account takeover attacks, Barracuda recommends using AI to scan your emails, set up account takeover protection, use multi-factor authentication, check inbox rules and train suspicious login attempts and employees to recognize and report attacks.

  • Worried about the hacking of your Office 365 account? We have also highlighted the best Microsoft Office alternatives
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