How to Prevent Account Takeover Attacks

Account takeover is not a new fraud in the cybersecurity world. In fact, both small and established businesses have been dealing with account takeover for quite some time. This is especially true for companies in the financial industry, including online companies, lenders, and banks.

And although cybersecurity experts have been battling account takeover for more than a decade now, it does not seem to go away. In fact, it seems to grow year in year out. At the moment, account takeover has increased by more than 300% since 2019. Companies have lost more than $16.9 billion in account takeover fraud during this period.

That is why all businesses need to adopt stringent measures to tackle this growing menace. Learning more about this vice is the best place to start. In the following guide, we will be discussing everything you should know about account takeover and how you can stop it.

First Things First, What Exactly is Account Takeover Fraud?

For starters, an account takeover is a form of identity theft. Identity theft can be defined as the unlawful act of obtaining personal or financial credentials belonging to another individual or organization. While it is committed in various methods, all identity theft cases end with economic damage and a damaged reputation to the victim.

Now, account takeover means the unlawful act of using another person’s login credentials to obtain products and services unlawfully. Cybercriminals usually steal users’ credit card numbers and passwords to conduct illegal transactions. They can also use the information to withdraw funds from the victim’s bank account.

Most account takeover accounts rely on bot attacks. Automated and programmed bots allow cybercriminals to compromise several sites at a go. In most cases, account owners usually notice that they are compromised long after excessive billing has already occurred.

How Does Account Takeover Fraud Occur?

Cybercriminals use various methods to illegally acquire user information, as mentioned earlier. These criminals exploit vulnerabilities in the networks and user accounts to gain illegal access into users’ accounts. They will then use various techniques, including social engineering, man-in-the-middle attacks, credential stuffing, credential cracking, and malware replay attacks to take over an account. Let’s discuss these methods in-depth below:

Social Engineering

Social engineering uses human psychology to trick users into giving out their account credentials. Cybercriminals impersonate reliable organizations and individuals to trick victims into giving up vital account information, which is later used to conduct illegal financial transactions. Common types of social engineering techniques include:

· Fake emails and text messages.

· Illegal payment and information requests.

· Fake customer care inquiries.

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

Man-in-the-middle attacks are similar to social engineering attacks. However, cybercriminals focus on intercepting your communication with a legit company in these attacks. Apart from that, cybercriminals can also impersonate an individual and take action on their behalf. These attacks usually occur if your JavaScript vulnerabilities are exposed, or your network is not secure. Common examples of such attacks would be:

· Fake website addresses and DNS.

· Fake customer notifications.

· Different HTTP and TCP signatures in a session.

Malware Replay Attacks

These attacks are the most common techniques used by cybercriminals. Cybercriminals will send malware to your device to obtain login credentials illegally or launch a replay attack in a malware replay attack. The cybercriminals will manipulate a website address to their favor during a replay attack. Watch out for the following signs to stop malware replay attacks early on:

· Suspicious ads and pop-ups.

· Sudden reduced system performance.

· Illegal emails sent from your account.

· Strange error messages.

Credential Cracking

Credential cracking is one of the oldest tricks used by cybercriminals. This does not mean that you should ignore it all the same. Cybercriminals usually launch brute force attacks to steal users’ information in these attacks. Credential cracking attacks typically start with an infection before misappropriation and transactions. These attacks end with validation, observation, and execution. Here is how to identify these attacks early on:

· A sudden increase in account locks.

· Abnormal increase in the amount of failed login attempts.

· Increased customer complaints.

Credential Stuffing

In credential stuffing attacks, cybercriminals try to access users’ accounts by using login credentials obtained from various websites and accounts. For instance, an attacker tries to gain access to Facebook and bank accounts using usernames and passwords acquired from users’ Instagram accounts. Below are vital signs of credential stuffing attacks:

· Unstable increase in web traffic.

· Increased login attempts.

· Strange bounce rates.

· Suspicious numbers of failed login attempts.

How to Stop Account Takeover

Now that you know the different types of account takeover techniques, it would be best to look at some of the measures you can adopt to stop these attacks. Keep reading to see some of the actions you can introduce to win the battle against account takeover:

· Educate Your Employees or Users

While it might not seem like the best way to fight account takeover, educating your employees or users will go a long way towards helping your business to win the war against account takeover. Teach them how to create strong and unique passwords to stop these attacks. A strong password should contain a mix of lowercase, numbers, alphanumeric characters, and uppercase letters. It should not include common names and should be changed frequently.

· Invest in a Strong Password Management Tool

While strong passwords will help you win this battle, investing in a robust password management tool will pay. Practical password management tools will make life easier for your users and employees.

· Introduce Two-Factor Authentication

Introducing two-factor authentication is the best way of dealing with account takeover attacks initiated by bots. Effective two-factor authentication should include a piece of the user’s information or biometric data.

· Add DNS Filtering on the Endpoints

Taking all these steps will amount to nothing if you fail to protect your DNS. Protect your company’s DNS. Protecting your Domain Name System allows you to spot and prevent account takeover attacks before they occur.

In a Nutshell

Although account takeover cases have increased in the last couple of years and companies have lost billions in these attacks, you can still win the battle against this frustrating vice if you encourage your users to use strong passwords. Investing in effective solutions will also help.