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A well-organized email spoofing campaign has been seen targeting financial services, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, and telecom.

A large-scale phishing campaign is targeting 200 million Microsoft 365 users around the world, particularly within the financial services, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, utilities, and telecom sectors, Ironscales researchers report.

The attackers leverage a domain spoofing technique to create emails that appear to come from Microsoft Outlook ([email protected]). These emails attempt to use urgent language to trick people into using a new Microsoft 365 capability that lets account holders reclaim emails accidentally flagged as phishing or spam.

A link within the email promises to redirect readers to a security portal so they can review and act on so-called “quarantine messages” deemed suspicious by the Exchange Online Protection (EOP) filtering stack, researchers explain in a blog post. Victims who click the link will be asked to enter their Microsoft login credentials on a fake authentication page.

While impersonating the exact name and domain of a specific sender is technically more complex than other spoofing attacks, researchers warn this remains a common phishing tactic that even attentive security-savvy employees are likely to overlook if it arrives in their inbox.

“To the naked eye, the most suspicious element of this attack would be the sense of urgency to view the quarantined messages or the unusualness of receiving this type of email solicitation,” researchers note.

Organizations keen to mitigate their risk for this type of attack are advised to ensure their defenses are configured for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Compliance (DMARC), an email authentication protocol built to block exact domain spoofing.

Microsoft 365 continues to be a popular target for cybercriminals, from attackers with little experience to advanced persistent threat (APT) groups following enterprise victims to the cloud. Some of these groups target businesses to steal information or gain additional access; some will target one corporation with the goal of eventually breaching another. Most of these advanced attackers seek long-term access that will let them dwell in an environment for years.

Some APT groups might acquire administrator credentials to breach a target Microsoft 365 environment; others might exploit flaws in how the platform validates configuration changes. Unskilled attackers might use business email compromise attacks to infiltrate a target organization’s Microsoft account.

Campaigns like the one Ironscales detected underscore cybercriminals’ ability to develop increasingly subtle attacks. Research released from Vectra in October found attackers are widely using Microsoft 365 accounts to move laterally to other users and accounts within a target organizations to carry out command-and-control communications and other activities.

The Vectra study found lateral movement on 96% of Microsoft 365 customer accounts sampled. With 71% of the accounts, they noticed suspicious activity using Power Automate, a capability built into the platform, and 56% of accounts revealed similarly suspicious behavior using the eDiscovery tool in Microsoft 365.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial … View Full Bio