In a blog post published Tuesday, Microsoft revealed details of a major phishing campaign that its Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) first observed in December 2019. The criminals targeted user accounts in 62 countries,
Based on patterns discovered at that time, Microsoft utilized technical means to block the criminals’ activity and disable the malicious application used in the attack. Recently, Microsoft observed renewed attempts by the same criminals, this time using COVID-19-related lures in the phishing emails to target victims. This malicious activity is yet another form of business email compromise (BEC) attack, which has increased in complexity, sophistication and frequency in recent years. According to the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, the most-costly complaints received by their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) involved BEC crimes, with losses of over $1.7 billion, representing nearly half of all financial losses due to cybercrime. While most of the public’s attention in recent years has justifiably focused on the malign acts of nation state actors, the increasing economic harm caused by cybercriminals must also be considered and confronted by the public and private sectors. For our part, Microsoft and our Digital Crimes Unit will continue to investigate and disrupt cybercriminals and will seek to work with law enforcement agencies around the world, whenever possible, to stop these crimes.