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Account Takeover

Fraudsters are everywhere, and with the help of new, upcoming technology every day, it is easy for hackers to hack into your account and pretend to be you. Here’s everything you need to know about an Account Takeover and how to prevent it.
Account Takeover
Account Takeover
Let's explore the what, why, and how of Account Takeover and the safety measures taken by cybersecurity and IT professionals. Keep reading further for everything you need to know to save yourself from this fraud.
In this article

We live in the modern century, and if you think keeping “123456” or “PASSWORD” as your day-to-day credential password is a good choice, you might be wrong. Fraudsters are everywhere, and with the help of new, upcoming technology every day, it is easy for hackers to hack into your account and pretend to be you. 

When you open a new personal or business account, you use your private information to complete the registration. This confidential information is often the only resource a hacker needs to know to log into your account. 

Today, we’ll talk about Account Takeover and the techniques to be cautious of these acts. We will deeply explore the what, why, and how of Account Takeover and the safety measures taken by cybersecurity and IT professionals. Keep reading further for everything you need to know to save yourself from this fraud. Uncertainty is everywhere. Protect yourself with a Beem subscription.

What is an Account Takeover?

Account takeover is a cybercriminal activity where a hacker, an expert at getting your account details without your permission, successfully logs into your credential account and pretends to be you to earn profits and steal all the information. Your sensitive information is at a heavy risk of being sold to data miners at a hefty cost or kept with the hacker or an organization to earn benefits on your name. 

Your information can be used to mislead people, and if you have sensitive data, like your bank account details, there are grim chances that you will lose your hard-earned money at the hands of these fraudsters. 

This could also be done to get revenge on your company by stealing your crucial data and executing a malicious scheme to take down your reputation or the working capacity of your company.

What’s fascinating about Account Takeover is that an individual needs to do this act with more than his knowledge and hacking tricks to get this done. Huge professional cybercriminal groups are equipping new technologies and employing masterminds to bring advanced techniques to get into someone’s account and pretend to be them.

How Does an Account Takeover Happen?

Although account phishing is a gruesome crime, you may be curious to know how this entire process of account takeover works. With the abundance of online data and your social or electronic ID linked to everything you do over the internet, these master criminals find it a cakewalk to take over accounts they feel might be helpful to them. 

Cyber growth is enormous. This means that in the vast internet community, cybercriminals have easy access to your account from all points. With the same passwords getting used everywhere or identical email IDs being recognized at every platform, getting a password out of this platform and using it to log in is quite an easy task for the attackers.   

Many techniques and steps are used by professional attackers detected by cybersecurity and professional IT decision-makers. The steps are as follows:

  • Compromising the user’s credentials.
  • Test the account’s operating system.
  • Sell the credentials or keep them to use
  • Get access to high-value accounts. 

Why Does an Account Takeover Happen?

Cybercriminals do not have any benefits from taking over any account- there are multiple objectives and fixed targets from where they gain profits and cause some actual harm.

  1. Phishing email campaigns: Fraudsters try to use the hacked email account to start undetected phishing campaigns.
  2. Selling of credentials and data: Some cybercriminals steal other employees’ or business owners’ credentials and gain profit after selling them on the black market.
  3. Business Email Compromise: Attackers often steal the credentials of key employees and use them to attack the actual employee’s email address to set up a fraudulent transaction or transfer of funds.
  4. Damage the Reputation: Account takeover attacks can target multiple end users of an organization to cause long-term harm to the reputation of a business’s security and data privacy.

Who Does the Account Takeover?

The act of taking over an individual’s account and pretending to be them for some malicious reason is often done by a hacker who aims to get all the credential data and sell it into the market to gain as much money out of it as he can. Sometimes, it’s also an organized cybercriminal group employing advanced techniques and automated tools to breach thousands of accounts in minutes. 

To harm someone’s reputation, these hackers sometimes happen to be hired individuals. They work for someone with the sole intention of causing harm through account takeover without any other motive. 

Impact of Account Takeover Attacks

  1. Identity Theft: ATO fraudsters can steal personal details like social security numbers, credit card numbers, and login details for identity theft. This can lead to severe financial losses and lower credit scores.
  2. Financial Losses: ATO fraudsters can use stolen login info to make unauthorized purchases, transfer funds, or access other linked accounts, causing significant financial losses.
  3. Chargebacks: Fraudulent transactions from ATO attacks may lead to chargebacks, making businesses incur costs to dispute and process them.
  4. Negative impact on user experience: ATO attacks can seriously harm user experience and brand reputation. eCommerce companies, in particular, need to keep user accounts safe to avoid harm through fraud, payment fraud, user distrust, and negative brand reputation. 
  5. Malware Delivery: Account takeover attacks allow attackers to install and run ransomware and other malware on corporate systems.
  6. Follow-on Attacks: Once an attacker gets access to an account, they can use it to attack the person back to back. Gaining access to an account may only be done for this purpose, like stealing login details, hoping the user reuses passwords across multiple accounts.
  7. Lateral movement: A compromised account can be an entry point for an attacker to a secure network. From there, the attacker can expand their access or escalate privileges across other corporate systems, a process known as lateral movement.
  8. Reputation Damage: A security incident can harm a company’s reputation. A high-profile account takeover incident can lead to a loss of customer trust, damaging a brand that may have taken years to build.

Account Takeover Techniques

Phishing

Phishing, an enduring cybercrime tactic, involves attackers impersonating trusted entities like banks or social media platforms to trick users into revealing login credentials. Phishing exploits users’ inherent trust, making it a serious and ongoing security threat. Users, often the weakest link, are targeted through emails, text messages, or social media scams that imitate trusted brands. This leads to harmful actions like clicking links or opening attachments, which results in malware installation. 

Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a technique where bots using automated scripts try to access an account. This data is further used in multiple accounts as people often prefer using the same usernames and passwords frequently. However, if a financial institution has a multifactor authentication process, like a one-time password or fingerprint, it becomes hard to access the account.

Malware

Malware techniques can capture sensitive data, like your keystrokes, taking screen shorts, or performing any action that can aid in stealing the login credentials of an account. This malware can infect the user’s device with malicious software. This malware can be downloaded while downloading apps or software from untrusted sources. It can also disguise itself within other programs; for instance, it can pose as a Flash player update or a Chrome extension. Some malware are hazardous. They have their eye on anything and everything you type. These malware are keyloggers that capture everything the user types, including the banking credentials. 

What Types of Organizations are Targets of ATO Attacks?

Any organization with an online login system is a target of ATO attacks, and nowadays, when everything is on the cloud system, almost every information of an organization that is available online is at risk of being stolen. The main goal of these cybercriminals is to earn money, and they could use your organization’s valuable information in any way that can help them make money. It could be by selling the company employees’ personal information using their data fraudulently or easily tricking them into buying harmful software. 

In many cases, it has been noticed that the prime objective of these fraudsters is to get access to your personal information, name, address, email ID, and more. This info is valuable and can be used for things like pretending to be you to get money from insurance, getting credit card details, or creating fake identities.

Even e-commerce sites are at great risk of being hacked to gather the bank credentials of the clients, so these e-commerce websites need to be safer. Cybercriminals can take over someone’s account, buy expensive stuff with the person’s money, and have it sent to their address, just like someone pretending to be you to shop online and get away with it.

What is the Difference Between Credential Stuffing and Account Takeover?

Credential stuffing involves automated tools attempting logins with many stolen usernames and passwords, constituting a brute-force attack. Account takeover happens when a threat actor gains unauthorized access to an account. Account takeover can result from successful credential stuffing, phishing, password spraying, or other methods.

How to Prevent Account Takeover Attacks?

Using Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

Multifactor authentication means adding a new layer of security by providing users with more than one verification factor to access their accounts. This layer could be an extra password, a security token, or even biometric data. Therefore, even if an attacker does manage to get the user’s security credentials, multifactor authentication can prevent them from gaining access to the account.

Implementing Strong Password Policies and Management

Implementing a firm password policy that includes guidelines on password complexity, length, and change frequency is crucial. Passwords are usually the first line of protection against unauthorized entry. Besides, password management tools can help users generate and securely store complex passwords, reducing the likelihood of password reuse across multiple sites.

Regular Security Audits

Regular security audits help identify potential weaknesses in your systems and processes that could be exploited in an account takeover attack. It’s essential to keep your systems up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates and to regularly evaluate your organization’s exposure to the latest ATO tactics and indicators of compromise.

Making Awareness

People are often the weakest link in the security chain. Employees should know the risks associated with account takeover attacks, identify potential phishing attempts, and report any suspicious activity.

Conclusion

As we end this very informative discussion, it’s vital to note that Account Takeover attacks are expanding due to the easy way a fraudster can get in touch and find his way through to gain access to your account. With all the high-user techniques and their vast impacts, it is riskier for organizations with face-login systems. Be cautious of what’s going on with your account; do not give your credential details to just random people. Taking some vital steps toward preventing account takeover attacks is also essential. Using multiple securities and making awareness among the employees and people around you can make a change and save someone from a hacker’s trick or a cybercriminal’s attack.

Remember, our security and online safety are always in our hands; no cybercrime can succeed if we are alert and aware of our virtual surroundings and take proper care of our online presence. Don’t let financial uncertainty hamper your future plans. Protect yourself with a Beem subscription.

FAQs

What is account takeover in cybersecurity?

Account takeover in cybersecurity means when someone unauthorized gets control of a person’s online account. This can happen when a hacker gains access to usernames and passwords, allowing them to take over and misuse the account.

What is the typical method of account takeover?

Some of the typical techniques of account takeover are phishing, credential stuffing, malware, and mobile banking trojans.

What are the common indicators of account takeover?

A few of the common indicators of account takeover attacks are Theft of Login Credentials via a Data Breach, Brute Force Credential Cracking, Phishing for Login Information, Data Theft via Viruses and Malware and Man in the Middle (MITM) Attacks.

What is an account takeover when bad actors?

An account takeover by bad actors occurs when unauthorized individuals or hackers gain control of someone’s online account. This happens when these malicious individuals get hold of usernames and passwords, enabling them to take over the account for harmful purposes.

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Author

Picture of Fatema Yusuf

Fatema Yusuf

A passionate writer, who loves to write about anything and everything. She usually writes about finance and investment options. She enjoys talking about personal development and loves to help people grow. she loves to cook for kids and upcycle old stuff to give them a new life.

Editor

This page is purely informational. Beem does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

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