April 19, 2021

What Is Account Takeover?

An account takeover (ATO) happens when a fraudster obtains legitimate user details that enable them to take over their online accounts. The account takeover leads to a malicious third party gaining access to the victim’s bank account, e-commerce site, or any other type of account. The accessibility to these accounts leads to possibly monetary or credit card theft. The purpose of the ATO is to make a profit by using the value of the account. Learn about what is account takeover and more.

How Does Account Takeover Happen?

Digital communication has grown popular because it is convenient and easy to execute. Despite the many benefits digital communication offers, it also has its downside. Since most of the information is stored online, cybercriminals have a large entry point to access personal information.

In addition to the digital data stored online, most people are not cautious when creating passwords. The people trying to hack into the account do not need highly sensitive data to gain access. They usually look for a simple point of entry and then build the account and take over from there. It starts with a piece of data used when it is logged in, like the email address, full names, date of birth, or even city of residence. All the data can be found using minimal research.

When the hackers gain access to the user’s main communication channel, they can now change everything since they have access to the account. The fraudsters can change information like security questions, passwords, encryptions, settings, and the username. Doing this makes it difficult for the real account holder to resolve the problem since they will not have any information linked to the account. Thus, the hacker can use the account in the way they like.

What Are The Techniques Used In Account Takeover?

Different techniques can be used for the account takeover when criminals try to gain entry into the account.

  • Hacking

The ATO attackers can use multiple hacking techniques. However, the one that is commonly used is by using brute force. This is where the criminals who use the account develop automated scripts to churn through password combinations. The aim is to ensure that they have successfully generated a login key.

  • Phishing

Phishing or even spear phishing is another effective way cybercriminals use email correspondence to trick those who use the account to reveal their data. Phishing emails can be easy to spot, but the spear-phishing is not as recognizable, and that is why it is highly targeted and deceptive.

  • Social Engineering

Social engineering is another type of ATO that is known to be effective. This is a technique where the perpetrators will spend their time searching across the various online platforms, looking for information that they can use to guess their passwords. Some of the data they use is like your phone number, location, names, or family members’ names.

  • Botnets

The use of botnets is one of the common ways fraudsters get information about your account. Using this option, the hackers will plug in the bots; they will plug them in commonly used passwords and usernames to perform high volume, fast attacks over many accounts. The one thing about bots is that they can stay hidden from the immediate view. Since they are deployed in various locations, it becomes a challenge to identify the malicious IP address login.

  • Credential Stuffing

The other option that the fraudster can use to achieve a successful ATO is by using credential stuffing. When they use this method, the stolen credential or leaked from a different business can be bought from the dark web. The information is then tested against various websites to catch a victim unaware that their login data has been compromised.

What Type Of Data Is Used In The Account Takeover?

The data that is needed for a fraudster to have a successful ATO depends on the site. Each site has different verification needs for its users, and this is the information that the hackers will need to get into the account. In case an account only requires the username and password, this information will be enough for the fraudsters. However, some accounts will also need a one-time password or biometrics, challenging the fraudster to access. However, hackers can use some specialized tools to intercept the biometrics or a one-time message.

How Do I Know That I Am A Victim Of The Account Takeover?

It is not easy for one to know if they are a victim of the account takeover. The signs that you should watch out for are a higher number of chargeback requests or experiencing fraudulent transactions. Another sign is when you see abnormal activities like numerous attempts to access an account or password reset requests. However, you should also check your account for any new shipping address, credit card, or even a new payee. Besides, you should also monitor your rewards points.

How Do I Stop Account Takeover?

For you to notice an ATO, it is paramount for you to be proactive. The best way to prevent the ATO is not to wait for the attack to happen and start looking for any signs of ATO today. It is paramount for you to look for any unusual signs like an account being accessed several times. If you do your due diligence, you will be able to notice an attack as soon as it happens, giving you time to stop it.

What Is The Solution To The Account Takeover?

It is paramount for the account takeover to be carefully measured not to cost a client. One way you can prevent the situation is by placing an invisible pre-login stage like the ATO protection. What you should note is that this will monitor all activities and ensure that the login is secure. If so, you will notice a malicious attempt when it happens and help prevent them from taking place.

It is also possible for you to stop the ATO’s possibility by limiting the number of login attempts or ensuring a robust authentication process, IP blacklisting, configuration, and adding CAPTCHAs. If you handle the accounts cautiously, you will not have to worry about ATO taking place.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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