How to Avoid a New Cyber Attack Attempting to Access Small Business Bank  Funds

This post is part of the series, SmallBusiness.com Guide to Business Computer and Tech Security: Advice, alerts and information about digital security threats faced by small businesses. You can browse other posts in the series below.

  1. Lynda.com Alerts 9.1 Million Users After 55,000 Accounts Are Breached | December 2016

  2. What Does HTTPS Mean? And Why a Small Business Website Needs the ‘S’

  3. Yahoo Security Breach is Another Reminder of Why Password Protection is Critical to Your Business

  4. Homeland Security Tips for Choosing Harder to Hack Passwords

  5. Passwords Are Stolen Everyday; How to Protect Yours From Being One of Them

  6. How to Recognize and Avoid an Attempt to Crack Your Two-Step Verification Passwords

  7. How Voice Recognition Software is Being Used to Detect Cyber Criminals

  8. How to Avoid a New Cyber Attack Attempting to Access Small Business Bank  Funds

  9. Seven Resolutions for 2016 That Will Help Protect Your Small Business Computers

  10. Top Ten Free Antivirus Utilities For Your Small Business | 2016

  11. Most Small Businesses Have No Cyber Attack Response Plan

  12. If Your Business Bank Account Gets Hacked, Your Bank May Blame You

  13. Why You Should Still Use a Password Management System, Even if You Heard One Was ‘Hacked’

  14. Advice From Google on Avoiding Scams Directed at Small Businesses

  15. More Tips for Actively Managing Your Passwords

  16. What Small Business Customers Should Know and Do About the JPMorgan Chase Cyberattack

  17. How Hackers Use ‘Social Engineering’ and How to Prevent It

  18. Ten Tips From the FCC for Improving Your Small Business Cyber Security

  19. Password Protection Advice from SmallBusiness.com

  20. Ebay Asks 145 Million Users to Change Passwords

  21. What is Two-Step Verification and Why You Should Start Using Them

  22. How (and Why) to Use a Password Management Application

  23. How to Reduce the Odds of Being Hacked While Using Public Wifi


Research released today from the security firm, Symantec, found that criminals are using a new attack against hundreds of small business employees in the U.S., U.K. and India. The emails contained publically available “remote access trojans” (RATs) – malware that allowed the criminals to use infected computers to steal money from the bank accounts of the small businesses. As we shared last September, banks are not required to refund money stolen from small business accounts, making the attack an especially dangerous if successful.


How the attackers do it

  • The attackers rely on social engineering (see glossary, below)
  • Attackers send legitimate-looking, but malicious, emails to small business employees responsible for accounts and fund transfers.
  • The email appears to be from someone the email user knows.
  • The emails include archive file attachments, usually with the .zip extensions.
  • If the employee opens the file, their computer is infected with either Backdoor.Breut or Trojan.Nancrat.
  • Through these infections, the attackers can access the webcam and microphone, log keystrokes, steal files and passwords, and more.
  • The attackers have been observed using the targeted employee’s privileged access to transfer money to an account under their control.
  • Once a computer is compromised, the attackers spend time assessing it to find out how to steal the money.
  • In some cases, attackers have been known to even download manuals to figure out how to use certain financial software.
  • After they are finished with the computer, they return to sending emails to other targets.

Social Engineering | Attackers attempt to “con” an individual to share information or click-on buttons rather than attempting a technical breach of data
Spoofing | An email can appear to come an address of someone you know
RATs | “Remote access trojans” once inside your computer, allows the attacker access to sensitive data
Bacdoor.Breut | A trojan horse that opens a back door on the compromised computer. It then records keystrokes and may download more files on to the compromised computer.
Trojan.Nancrat | A trojan horse that opens a back door and steals information from the compromised computer.


Examples of subject lines of the email used by the attackers

  • Re:Invoice
  • PO
  • Remittance Advice
  • Payment Advise
  • Quotation Required
  • Transfer Copy
  • TT Payment
  • PAYMENT REMITTANCE
  • INQUIRY
  • Qoutation
  • QUOTATION
  • Request for Quotation

Huge impact with few resources

  • While advanced attack groups attract a lot of attention in the news, it’s important to remember that less skilled attackers can still cause major damages to a targeted company.
  • Even though the attackers in this case have limited resources, they can use Backdoor.Breut and Trojan.Nacrat to gain total access to a computer.
  • By focusing their RAT infections on specific employees, the attackers can potentially steal a substantial amount of money and sensitive information from affected businesses.

Take these measures to prevent the attack

  • If you do not have in-house tech support, retain the services of a tech support service
  • Keep security software up to date
  • Do not open attachments or click on links in suspicious email messages
  • Avoid providing any personal information when answering an email
  • Never enter personal information in a pop-up web page
  • If you’re uncertain about an email’s legitimacy, contact your computer consultant

Photo: Warner Bros (promotional)