Social Engineering: Combatting Business Email Compromise (BEC) in Nigeria; Unmasking the Threat

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By Aleke Francis AO

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a sophisticated form of cybercrime that targets organizations worldwide.
This article delves into the prevalence of BEC in Nigeria, analyzes most affected victims, discusses the far-reaching impacts on individuals and organizations, explores methods to recognize and investigate BEC, and provides practical strategies to mitigate this threat, along with precautionary measures to safeguard against it.

Prevalence in Nigeria

Sequel to the spate of Cybercrime menace globally, Nigeria has seemed to have gained notoriety as a hotspot for BEC activities within Africa Continent. The country’s cybercriminals have developed extensive networks, leveraging advanced tactics to perpetrate BEC scams on a global scale. Notable cases involving Nigerian perpetrators have highlighted the nation’s role in this cyber threat landscape.

Analysis of most affected Victims

BEC scammers have targeted a wide array of organizations, from small businesses to large corporations. Prominent victims include multinational companies, non-profit organizations, and government entities. These attacks have resulted in substantial financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal consequences for victims.

Impacts on Individuals and Organizations

The impacts of BEC extend beyond financial losses. Individuals and organizations may suffer reputational damage, loss of sensitive data, legal consequences, and disrupted operations. BEC attacks can lead to significant financial setbacks, affecting employees, shareholders, and customers.

Recognizing BEC

Recognizing BEC requires vigilance. Common indicators include:
✓ Unusual requests for funds.
✓Urgent payment demands.
✓Email domain spoofing.
✓ Changes in supplier payment information.

Notably, training employees to identify these red flags is crucial.

Investigating BEC

Investigating BEC incidents necessitates a multi-pronged approach, involving collaboration with law enforcement, cybersecurity experts, and digital forensics specialists. Preservation of evidence and timely reporting are critical steps in the process.

Mitigating BEC

To mitigate BEC risks, certain steps should be taken:
✓Organizations should implement robust email security measures, including two-factor authentication, email authentication protocols such as:
▪️ *SPF (Sender Policy Framework):* SPF is an email authentication protocol that helps prevent email spoofing by specifying which mail servers are authorized to send emails on behalf of a domain.
To set up SPF:
▫️Access your DNS (Domain Name System) records.
▫️Add a TXT record containing your domain and the list of authorized sending mail servers’ IP addresses.
▫️Example SPF record: “v=spf1 ip4: -all”

▪️ DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail): DKIM adds a digital signature to your emails to verify that they haven’t been tampered with during transit.
To set up DKIM:
▫️Generate a pair of public and private keys.
▫️Publish the public key as a TXT record in your DNS.
▫️Sign your outgoing emails with the private key using a DKIM signing tool or your email server.

▪️ DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): DMARC helps prevent phishing and email fraud by combining SPF and DKIM and providing a policy for how receiving servers should handle emails that fail authentication.
To set up DMARC:
▫️Publish a DMARC record in your DNS, specifying your domain’s policy, alignment mode, and an email address for receiving aggregate and failure reports.
▫️Example DMARC record: “v=DMARC1; p=quarantine;;;”

Please note that setting up these protocols requires access to your DNS records, and the exact steps may vary depending on your DNS provider and email server software. It is also essential to monitor and adjust these settings to ensure they are configured correctly and provide the desired level of email security.

✓Employee awareness training.

✓Regularly verifying payment requests and maintaining a secure vendor verification process is vital.

Precautionary Measures

Preventative measures are paramount.
✓Regularly update and patch software.
✓Conduct employee cybersecurity training.
✓Establish incident response plans.
✓Enforce strict financial controls.
✓Engaging third-party security assessments can also help identify vulnerabilities.

It is pertinent to state that Business Email Compromise remains a persistent and evolving threat, with Nigeria at its epicenter on the recent prevalence in Africa. As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, it is crucial for individuals and organizations to remain vigilant, invest in cybersecurity measures, and foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness. By recognizing, investigating, and mitigating BEC, we can collectively combat this menace and protect our digital world.

Aleke Francis AO is a Cybersecurity expert, CyberThreat Intelligence Analyst, Researcher and an InfoTech blogger. He can be reached on, 08062062303