Brand impersonation attacks are the reason your security awareness strategy shouldn’t end internally. Although it’s easy to put up your hands and say, “Not my problem”, security managers must take responsibility for the attacks affecting customers under the company name.

This can be difficult, as you can’t tell your customers what they can and can’t do. However, there are strategies you can use to communicate with them and help them when they need it, which we will discuss in today’s blog. 

What are brand impersonation attacks?

Brand impersonation attacks occur when cyber criminals use a company’s brand elements (such as name, logos, colours, and communication styles) to create fake websites, emails, text messages or social media profiles to trick victims. 

They imitate a brand and try to convince customers to divulge sensitive information, make payments, or install malware. Unlike traditional cyber attacks that target corporate networks directly, brand impersonation attacks focus on exploiting the trust customers have in a brand. A great example of a brand impersonation attack is the viral shoebox story, which started as an Amazon impersonation. 

A phone with brand impersonation scam calls on the screen

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These attacks typically start with outreach from the brand, like in the shoebox story when the victim receives a call from Amazon. Which is the first suspicious sign that individuals should recognize. Remember: Always go to the source, don’t let them come to you!

Why take responsibility for brand impersonation attacks? 

It might seem like brand impersonation attacks aren’t your issue to deal with, but they can have huge negative effects on your organization’s brand reputation if not handled properly. 

Loyal customers trust in the integrity of your brand. By addressing impersonation attacks proactively, you demonstrate a commitment to their safety and security, which helps maintain and build trust. When customers see that you are actively working to protect them from fraud, they are more likely to remain loyal to your brand despite potential threats. If you don’t offer any help when they are vulnerable to these threats, they’ll feel less connected to your brand and could even become angry about your negligence. 

How to know if your brand is being impersonated 

Detecting brand impersonation attacks can be challenging because they often occur outside the company’s direct control and visibility. You can’t set up network controls or firewalls to protect you from these attacks. Instead, you have to listen to your customers. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Contact your customers directly – Have regularly scheduled outreach to customers to see what they have heard about your brand. Connect with them over email or video call and have them report any contact they have had with your company. This would be a great time to use your VIP or special member groups if you have them. 
  2. Social listening – Utilize tools to track mentions about your brand on social media. Chances are your marketing team already does this, so contact them to see if you can also start tracking some keywords. You may want to track Tweets about “XZ Company phone calls”, “XZ Company texts”, “XZ Company DM”, and “XZ Company scam”. Additionally, the marketing team is already likely tracking just “XZ Company” so inform them to contact you if they see any negative security mentions. 

How to take responsibility for brand impersonators

Taking responsibility for brand impersonation attacks involves a coordinated effort across various teams within your organization. Here’s how to get started:

1. Collaborate with PR and Marketing teams: 

Work with your public relations and marketing teams to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing brand impersonation. This plan should include strategies for monitoring, detection, and communication. Ensure that your PR team is prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to incidents of brand impersonation, with clear messaging that reassures customers and outlines the steps you are taking to protect them. Then, let your marketing team know about any assistance you’ll need in web page building, social media posts, and social listening. 

2. Gather customer stories: 

Collect stories and reports from customers who have encountered impersonation attempts. Analyzing these incidents can help you identify common patterns and develop targeted countermeasures. By understanding how attackers are attempting to deceive your customers, you can better anticipate and mitigate future threats. Additionally, sharing these stories within your organization can raise awareness and drive further improvements in your security posture.

3. Establish a reporting system: 

Create a dedicated “security page” on your website where customers can report suspicious activities related to your brand. This page should also provide information on how to recognize legitimate communications from your company. Make the reporting process straightforward and accessible, and ensure that reports are reviewed and acted upon promptly. 

This page should be the foundation of any reporting system, but ensure that you also ask your customers what they believe to be the easiest reporting procedure. You may need to implement security social media accounts or helplines. 

4. Develop a Communication Process: 

Build a clear process for communicating with customers when a brand impersonation attack is growing. Determine how customers prefer to receive updates, whether through email, social media, or your website and ensure consistent and timely communication. 

Bottom line, always include updates on your security page to keep all stakeholders informed. Transparent communication is key to maintaining trust, so be proactive in notifying customers about potential threats and the steps you are taking to address them. 

Brand impersonation attacks are a growing threat in the digital age, posing significant risks to both companies and their customers. By understanding these attacks, proactively detecting them, and taking responsibility, businesses can protect their brand integrity and maintain customer trust. Collaborate with your internal teams, engage with your customers, and establish robust reporting and communication processes to effectively combat brand impersonation. In doing so, you not only safeguard your reputation but also reinforce the trust that is essential to your brand’s success. Taking these steps will help ensure that your brand remains resilient in the face of evolving cyber threats and that your customers continue to see you as a reliable and trustworthy partner in their digital lives.