CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Engineering and Computing


Yair Levy

Committee Member

Nitza Geri

Committee Member

Ling Wang


BEC, business email compromise, cybersecurity, information security, information science, information technology, phishing


With the evolution in technology and increase in utilization of the public Internet, Internet-based mobile applications, and social media, security risks for organizations have greatly increased. While corporations leverage social media as an effective tool for customer advertisements, the abundance of information available via public channels along with the growth in Internet connections to corporate networks including mobile applications, have made cyberattacks attractive for cybercriminals. Cybercrime against organizations is a daily threat and targeting companies of all sizes. Cyberattacks are continually evolving and becoming more complex that make it difficult to protect against with traditional security methods. Cybercriminals utilize email attacks as their most common method to compromise corporations for financial gain. Email attacks on corporations have evolved into very sophisticated scams that specifically target businesses that conduct wire transfers or financial transactions as part of their standard mode of operations. This new evolution of email driven attacks is called Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks and utilize advanced social engineering, phishing techniques, and email hacking to manipulate employees into conducting fraudulent wire transfers that are intended for actual suppliers and business partners. One of the most common types of BEC attacks is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) fraud, which are highly customized and targeted attacks aimed to impersonate corporate users that have authority to approve financial transactions and wire transfers in order to influence an employee to unknowingly conduct a fraudulent financial wire transfer.

Thus, the main goal of this research study was to assess if there are any significant differences of corporate users’ detection skills of BEC attacks in a simulated test environment based on their personality attributes, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®)’ 16 personalities® framework. BEC attacks have attributed to over $26 billion in corporate financial losses across the globe and are continually increasing. The human aspect in the cybersecurity has been a known challenge and is especially significant in direct interaction with BEC attacks. Furthermore, this research study analyzed corporate users’ attention span levels and demographics to assess if there are any significant differences on corporate users’ BEC attack detection skills.

Moreover, this research study analyzed if there are any significant differences for BEC detection skills before and after a BEC awareness training. This research study was conducted by first developing an experiment to measure BEC detection and ensure validity via cybersecurity subject matter experts using the Delphi process. The experiment also collected qualitative and quantitative data for the participants’ performance measures using an application developed for the study. This research was conducted on a group of 45 corporate users in an experimental setting utilizing online surveys and a BEC detection mobile test application. This research validated and developed a BEC detection measure as well as the BEC awareness training module that were utilized in the research experiment. The results of the experiments were analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to address the research questions. It was found that there were that no statistically significant mean differences for Business Email Compromise Detection (BECD) skills between personality attributes of corporate professional participants, However, results indicated that there was a significant mean difference for BECD skills and span attention with a p<.0001. Furthermore, there was a significant mean difference for BECD skills and span attention when controlled for gender with a p<0.05. Furthermore, the results indicated that the BEC detection awareness training significantly improved the participant BEC detection skill with a p<.0001. Moreover, following the training, it was found that female BEC detection test scores improved by 45% where the men BECD score improved by 31%. Recommendations for research and industry stakeholders are provided, including to corporations on methods to mitigate BEC attacks.