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Josh Lefkowitz
Chief Executive Officer
Josh Lefkowitz executes the company’s strategic vision to empower organizations with the fastest, most comprehensive coverage of threatening activity on the internet. He has worked extensively with authorities to track and analyze terrorist groups. Mr. Lefkowitz also served as a consultant to the FBI’s senior management team and worked for a top tier, global investment bank. Mr. Lefkowitz holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BA from Williams College.
Evan Kohlmann
Chief Innovation Officer
Evan Kohlmann focuses on product innovation at Flashpoint where he leverages fifteen years’ experience tracking Al-Qaida, ISIS, and other terrorist groups. He has consulted for the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Justice, the Australian Federal Police, and Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, among others. Mr. Kohlmann holds a JD from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School and a BSFS in International Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univ.
Josh Devon
Chief Operating Officer / Chief Product Officer
Josh Devon focuses on product vision and strategy at Flashpoint while ensuring the company’s departments function synergistically during its rapid growth. He also works to ensure that customers receive best in class products, services, and support. Previously, Mr. Devon co-founded the SITE Intelligence Group where he served as Assistant Director. He holds an MA from SAIS at Johns Hopkins Univ. At the Univ. of Pennsylvania, he received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and a BA in English from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Chris Camacho
Chief Revenue Officer
As Chief Revenue Officer, Chris Camacho leads the company’s global sales team, which includes solution architecture, business development, strategic integrations, partnerships, and revenue operations; he is also the architect of Flashpoint’s FPCollab sharing community. With over 15 years of cybersecurity leadership experience, he has spearheaded initiatives across Operational Strategy, Incident Response, Threat Management, and Security Operations to ensure cyber risk postures align with business goals. Most recently as a Senior Vice President of Information Security at Bank of America, Mr. Camacho was responsible for overseeing the Threat Management Program. An entrepreneur, Mr. Camacho also serves as CEO for NinjaJobs: a career-matching community for elite cybersecurity talent. He has a BS in Decision Sciences & Management of Information Systems from George Mason University.
Lisa Iadanza
Chief People Officer
Lisa M. Iadanza leads all functional areas of People Operations at Flashpoint, including human resources, talent acquisition & management, employee engagement, and developing high performance teams. In addition to collaborating with the executive team to drive strategic growth, she plays an integral role in fostering Flashpoint’s culture and mission. Driven by her passions for mentorship, employee advocacy, and talent development, Ms. Iadanza has more than twenty years of experience in building, scaling, and leading human resources functions. Prior to Flashpoint, she held leadership roles at Conde Nast, Terra Technology, and FreeWheel. She is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and holds a bachelor’s degree in management with concentrations in human resources and marketing from State University of New York at Binghamton.
Donald Saelinger
President
Donald Saelinger is responsible for driving strategic and operational initiatives to accelerate Flashpoint’s growth and scale. In this role, Donald leads a broad portfolio including Marketing, Customer Success, Revenue Operations, Legal and related functions, and is focused on helping the company execute on a go-to-market approach that maximizes value to our customers. Prior to Flashpoint, Donald served as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Endgame, Inc., an endpoint detection and response company acquired by Elastic N.V. in 2019, and where he led a range of teams focused on growth, scale, and legal and compliance matters. Donald also previously served as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Opower, Inc. (NYSE: OPWR), a global provider of SaaS solutions to electric and gas utilities that was acquired by Oracle, Inc. in 2016. Donald graduated from Columbia University in 2000 and received his JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2006.
Rob Reznick
SVP Finance and Corporate Development
Rob Reznick leads the finance, accounting, and corporate development teams at Flashpoint. Rob previously served as Director of Finance & Accounting for 1010data (acquired by Advance/Newhouse), and Director of Finance for Financial Guard (acquired by Legg Mason) after prior work in forensic accounting and dispute consulting. Mr. Reznick is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA and MAcc from the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, and a BBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Tom Hofmann
SVP Intelligence
Tom Hofmann leads the intelligence directorate that is responsible for the collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of Deep and Dark Web data. He works closely with clients to prioritize their intelligence requirements and ensures internal Flashpoint operations are aligned to those needs. Mr. Hofmann has been at the forefront of cyber intelligence operations in the commercial, government, and military sectors, and is renowned for his ability to drive effective intelligence operations to support offensive and defensive network operations.
Jake Wells
SVP Solutions Architecture
Jake Wells leads strategic integrations and information sharing as part of the client engagement & development team, which serves as an internal advocate for our government and commercial clients to ensure Flashpoint’s intelligence solutions meet their evolving needs. He leverages a decade of experience running cyber and counterterrorism investigations, most recently with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, to maximize the value customers generate from our products and services. Mr. Wells holds an MA from Columbia University and a BA from Emory University.
Brian Brown
SVP Strategy and Business Development
Brian Brown is responsible for the overall direction of strategic sales and development supporting Flashpoint’s largest clients. In his role, Mr. Brown focuses on designing and executing growth-oriented sales penetration strategies across multiple vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial, supporting Flashpoint’s Sales and Business Development Teams. An experienced entrepreneur, Mr. Brown also serves as CSO for NinjaJobs, a private community created to match elite cybersecurity talent with top tier global jobs and also advise growth-stage cybersecurity companies.
Justin Rogers
VP Revenue Operations
Justin Rogers leads the Revenue Operations team at Flashpoint, aligning sales, marketing, partnerships, customer success, and finance across vision, planning, process, and goals. He leverages over 15 years of experience in security, strategy, product design, and implementation to drive growth, provide an end-to-end view of the customer journey, and a seamless customer experience. Recently, Justin led Marketing for Centripetal, bringing the first Threat Intelligence Gateway to market. Previously, he managed operations of a Counter IED lab electronics forensics division while forward deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Justin holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire.
Peter Partyka
VP Engineering
Peter Partyka leads Flashpoint’s engineering teams. Peter previously worked in the quantitative hedge fund space in New York City, implementing security and administrative solutions around proprietary trading platforms, high-availability cloud deployments, and hardening of applications and infrastructure. Peter leverages more than 16 years of experience in technology specializing in application security, red-teaming, penetration testing, exploit development, as well as blue-teaming. Peter has a long track record of managing tech teams and implementing engineering security best practices. Recently Peter led Flashpoint toward GDPR and CCPA compliance and has been a key architect of Flashpoint’s robust compliance programs. Peter has taught advanced cybersecurity courses at New York University and consulted at various tech startups during his career.
Paul Farley
VP APAC Sales
Paul Farley is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region of Flashpoint's international business, including Australia, Japan, and Singapore. In his role at Flashpoint, Paul is executing growth-oriented sales strategies across multiple countries and vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial. Paul has extensive experience leading regional sales for both pre-IPO growth businesses and large organizations such as RSA, EMC and DELL.
Steven Cooperman
VP Public Sector Sales
Steven Cooperman is responsible for Flashpoint’s strategy and sales growth of its public sector business. He also supports the development of a robust partner ecosystem for public sector business to deliver value added offerings and innovation focused to the mission of government. Steven has an established and diverse career in the Public Sector, holding leadership positions at a number of successful enterprise software companies and Federal System Integrators, including ServiceNow, HP, Oracle and Northrop Grumman. He holds an MA in Analytic Geography from the State University of New York - Binghamton, and received his BS in Geology from the State University - Oneonta.
Matthew Howell
VP Product
Matthew Howell leads the Product Management and Product Marketing teams for Flashpoint. He is responsible for developing a strong team that drives product adoption and user engagement through outcome based prioritization, continuous process improvement, and metrics driven development. Matthew brings a passion for diverse ideas, experience launching B2B SaaS products, building integration ecosystems, supporting five 9s SLAs, and leading distributed teams. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Virginia
Glenn Lemons
Executive Director Strategic Accounts Engagement
Glenn Lemons is Executive Director, Strategic Accounts Engagement at Flashpoint. He previously served as the acting Director of Citigroup's Cyber Intelligence Center where he was responsible for analyzing and reacting to intelligence from a variety of threats. These threats ranged from fraudulent activity and attempting to defraud Citi's clients to supporting security operations for the firm's worldwide network presence. He has extensive experience working with multiple clients across the financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, and public sectors. Glenn also has more than 26 years of intelligence experience within the operational and support communities in the U.S. military and federal civilian service; seven of which focused on both defensive and offensive cyber operations. While working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he testified numerous times before U.S. Congressional committees and member requested open and closed sessions.
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Steve Leightell
Steve started his career in Internet sales in the early 1990s and was always a top sales rep before transitioning to business development. By the early 2000s, he was the Director of Business Development at DWL, where he managed a team that built partnerships with Accenture, Oracle, Tata Consulting, Wipro, Cognizant and IBM. Steve designed the channel and strategy that ultimately culminated in the acquisition of DWL by IBM in 2005. He went on to lead a global team within IBM that was responsible for major system integrator partnerships. In 2008, he left IBM to found a niche consulting firm focused on business development for SaaS organizations. Steve holds a BA in anthropology and sociology from Carleton University in Ottawa.
Ellie Wheeler
Ellie Wheeler is a Partner at Greycroft and is based in the firm’s New York office. Prior to joining Greycroft, Ellie worked in a similar role evaluating investment opportunities at Lowercase Capital. Ellie also worked at Cisco in Corporate Development doing acquisitions, investments, and strategy within the unified communications, enterprise software, mobile, and video sectors. While at Cisco, she was involved in multiple acquisitions and investments, including PostPath, Jabber, Xobni, and Tandberg. She began her career in growth capital private equity at Summit Partners in Boston. Ellie graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a BA in Psychology and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Glenn McGonnigle
Glenn McGonnigle is a General Partner at TechOperators. Prior to launching TechOperators in 2008, Glenn was CEO of VistaScape Security Systems, a venture-backed provider of enterprise intelligent video surveillance software. He lead the company through its successful sale to Siemens Building Technologies. Previously, Glenn was a co-founder and senior executive of Atlanta-based Internet Security Systems (ISS) where he helped raise initial venture capital and launch the business. For 7 years, he led the business development team in developing sales channels and entering the managed security services market. During his tenure, the company grew from startup to revenues of over $225 million and was later acquired by IBM for $1.3 billion.
Brendan Hannigan
Brendan joined Polaris Partners in 2016 as an entrepreneur partner. In this role, he focuses on funding and founding companies in the technology sector with a concentration in cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity. Brendan is a co-founder of Sonrai Security and chairman of Twistlock, both Polaris investments. He also currently serves on the board of Bitsight Technologies and Flashpoint. A 25 year technology industry veteran, Brendan was most recently the general manager of IBM Security. Under Brendan’s leadership, IBM Security grew significantly faster than the overall security market to become the number one enterprise security provider in the world with almost $2B of annual revenue.
Matt Devost
Currently, Devost serves as CEO & Co-Founder of OODA LLC as well as a review board member for Black Hat. In 2010, he co-founded the cybersecurity consultancy FusionX LLC which was acquired by Accenture in August 2015, where he went on to lead Accenture's Global Cyber Defense practice. Devost also founded the Terrorism Research Center in 1996 where he served as President and CEO until November 2008 and held founding or leadership roles at iDefense, iSIGHT Partners, Total Intel, SDI, Tulco Holdings, and Technical Defense.
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Your Data, Their Gain: How Threat Actors Leverage Tax Season to Commit Fraud

Blog
March 21, 2022

In 2020, the IRS identified over US$2.3 billion in tax fraud schemes, including tax return fraud. And in 2021, we identified 113 breaches which resulted in more than 69 million exposed records, including tax information, documents, and other sensitive data; this year, we’ve already identified 15 breaches and 3 million exposed records. This number is certain to grow.

While tax return fraud is an issue throughout the year, it is, of course, most prevalent during tax season. Around the time when winter turns to spring, threat actors pursue W2 and other tax-related forms, which are chock-full of personally identifiable information (PII) and may provide them with the data they need to commit tax fraud, among other illegal activities.

It is vital to prepare for, preempt, and ultimately prevent attacks that can lead to various kinds of tax fraud. In this article, we:

  • Explain how threat actors leverage tax season for profit by executing a variety of TTPs
  • Detail the emerging risk apertures that fraudsters seek to exploit
  • Outline best practices to prevent attacks, keep your data safe, and mitigate risk

Tax return fraud

Also referred to as stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF), tax return fraud occurs when a return is filed under someone else’s identity. Threat actors accomplish tax return fraud through the use of stolen personal information, which is leveraged to file tax returns under another individual’s identity. Threat actors targeting tax return fraud typically file electronic returns as early as possible in the tax season in order to claim refunds before the legitimate filer. 

Sourcing stolen identities

To prepare for this scheme, fraudsters build up information on their victim through collecting tax documents, Social Security numbers (SSNs), full names, addresses, credit reports, and other personal information. Identities used for fraudulent returns can be sourced from a number of places including data breaches, phishing campaigns, spear-phishing scams targeting tax professionals, and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) accesses. Fraudsters can target both individuals and tax preparation services, building up “fullz” (slang for “full package of personally identifiable information”) to file returns en-masse, or attempting to gain access to personal information and tax software accessible by tax preparers. 

Using “fullz”

Threat actors will either purchase “fullz” on an illicit marketplace, or otherwise identify a victim and aggregate additional personal information like full names, addresses, phone numbers, employment, education, and Social Security Numbers. This information can be gleaned from publicly accessible background check tools, social media profiles, data breaches, and phishing attacks. 

Once a victim is identified, the fraudster can then begin the filing process—again, the earlier in the tax season the better. Some fraudsters do so with the help of stolen tax documents, although many manually calculate figures using the IRS’s tax withholding estimator to create their desired refund amount and avoid incorrect calculations. 

Many fraudsters work within the underground economy of illicit forums and marketplace to form “partnerships”; trading information and sharing resources to help gather fullz, file correctly, and cash out successfully. 

Threat actors may also target RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) accesses to PCs with access to tax preparation software. These accesses allow fraudsters to file on legitimate and registered tax software, helping falsely filed returns avoid additional scrutiny. 

Filing with the help of automated software

Automated filing software, observed in multiple online forums and illicit chat services, helps fraudsters file hundreds of fraudulent returns en-masse. Threat actors input fullz information into the program, where it automatically fills out tax returns with the victim’s information. While fraudsters must manually complete email and CAPTCHA verifications, threat actors claim such programs can submit up to 1,000 returns in an hour.

Threat actors appear to primarily target the IRS’s FreeFile system with this tactic, though Flashpoint has observed other tax services targeted with similar software. While this method appears to have relatively low rates of acceptance and successful cash out, analysts assess that threat actors will continue to target tax services with similar tactics.

Taking advantage of the IRS’s backlog

The unique landscape brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has also created increased opportunities for stolen identity refund fraud. The third round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP), (advance payments of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit) can be claimed on a 2021 tax return as a tax credit. The third installment of EIPs, worth US$1,400, is an attractive target for threat actors in the 2021 tax season. Unclaimed stimulus checks are relatively easy for fraudsters to claim, especially from victims who recently turned 18, or other filers who did not previously qualify for the Economic Impact Payments. 

Discrepancies involving claims for the Recovery Rebate Credit also contributed to the IRS’s backlog of unprocessed returns, which has created additional opportunities for fraudsters to commit tax return fraud. As of December 2021, the IRS reported that 35.3 million returns still await manual processing from the 2020 tax season. This backlog enables fraudsters to take advantage of unfinalized Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) figures—a figure from the previous year’s tax return used by filers to verify their identity. Unfinalized returns do not have an accurate AGI figure, meaning that fraudsters do not need to verify that information to file a return.

Social Engineering and Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Threat actors and threat actor groups leverage social engineering tactics, like phishing or voice phishing (vishing) in order to trick human resource departments to disclose employee PII—in the form of W2s. In some instances, the actor could pretend to be a CEO or director requesting employee data for tax filing or auditing purposes. In 2018, the FBI warned of tax season-related W2 phishing scams. 

Threat actors consistently target organizations using business email compromise (BEC) and other fraud schemes that attack executives to access confidential data. BEC accounted for an adjusted loss of $1.8 billion in 2020, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s annual Internet Crime Report. During tax season, BEC is often used to trick employees into sending PII to individuals pretending to be company executives or other trusted parties, including W2 and other tax forms.

How do threat actors make money from tax fraud?

Stolen identity refund fraudsters who successfully file an accepted tax return will then attempt to cash out their refunds. While some fraudsters may attempt to create bank accounts under their victim’s name for cash out, prepaid cards offered by some tax preparation services are considered an easy way to receive funds. 

“Cashout” services are also offered by threat actors in illicit forums and marketplaces, wherein fraudsters will launder tax refund payments within the automated clearing house (ACH) network to cash out illicit funds. They can act as recipient accounts for transactions of compromised funds from electronic payment systems with stolen credit cards linked to them. 

Threat actors may also attempt to launder funds into cryptocurrency. The decentralized nature of peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchanges is highly attractive to actors seeking to launder funds. Although these services are legitimate, the accountability and transparency adhered to by a number of larger centralized exchanges is not mandated, and they therefore challenge law enforcement efforts to track potential cases of abuse. 

Emerging risk apertures

Third-party risk

Frauders will likely employ tried and true methods of business email compromise, buying and selling of fullz, and offering tax fraud-related services as they generally require little technical acumen or sophistication. 

The identity theft fraud landscape has grown due to the use of third-party vendors along the software supply chain, like cloud service providers, who introduce a host of new risk apertures into the tax fraud space. Fraudsters may target cloud resources storing personally identifiable information that could be used to file for fraudulent tax returns.  They could also target resources that directly store tax documents or information.

Financial services

Accounting services, including CPA’s, tax preparation, payroll services, and bookkeeping, were responsible for 24.7% of 2021 tax breaches. Financial services, including banks, credit unions, savings & loans, mortgage brokers, and financial advisors, were responsible for 23.3% of 2021 tax breaches.

Other business groups, including manufacturing, real estate, and insurance were also targeted, demonstrating that all industries are at risk.

Common tactics include the aforementioned social engineering tactics, as well as ransomware and malware, exploited software vulnerabilities, and misconfigured databases that left records exposed.

How to prevent attacks, according to the FBI, IRS, and FTC

In 2018, the FBI suggested that to best protect against social engineering attacks like business email compromise, organizations should consider implementing additional security measures like implementing a PIN or other form of multi-factor authentication to approve transfer of tax-related information. 
In November 2021, the IRS outlined basic safeguards to protect against identity theft as the 2022 tax season approaches. Among these are the use of updated security software, using the “stop malware” feature on anti-virus software, being cognizant of phishing scams, using strong and unique passwords, using multi-factor authentication whenever possible, only shopping on sites that are TLS encrypted (HTTPS over HTTP), not using public or unsecure Wifi, securing your home WiFi network with a password, backing up files from your computer and mobile phones, and creating a virtual private network (VPN) to connect to external networks like that of an office. The IRS also notes common warning signs that could possibly lead to identity theft. They note that fraudsters will try to impersonate government agencies via email or text message, relaying false information about refunds or stimulus payments. The IRS notes that they will never call or send unexpected messages about refunds.

Understand threat actor TTPs, prevent fraud with Flashpoint

Flashpoint gives you the threat intelligence needed to have visibility into threat actor groups, the risk apertures they seek to exploit, and the potentially serious threats they pose to organizations across both the public and private sectors, including tax fraud and other illicit activities that may ensue when credentials are compromised. Sign up for a free trial today to keep your organization’s assets, data, infrastructure, and personnel safe from threats.

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