Defending the Gate – A Comprehensive Guide to Account Takeover Solutions

Account takeover is a growing concern for any business with private customer information. Fraudsters use stolen credentials to hijack accounts to redirect shipments, steal rewards points, resell subscription information, and more.

The three main methods fraudsters use to access customer accounts are social engineering, malware, and brute force attacks.

Preventing Account Takeovers

Many account takeover attacks start with a compromised set of user credentials. Fraudsters use these stolen or phished credentials to access an online account. They then use that account to take over additional accounts. These stolen accounts are often e-commerce accounts where attackers can exploit credit card chargebacks to steal money and assets from genuine customers.

Many cybersecurity solutions focus on detecting account takeover attempts. It includes implementing MFA, which requires passwords and other methods of authentication that can be guessed or phished. However, these measures aren’t enough to prevent account takeovers.

A more effective approach is to remove passwords and other perishable credentials from the authentication process. It means using biometrics to verify identity. These approaches do not require shared secrets, so they aren’t vulnerable to the brute force and credential-stuffing techniques that make up the majority of account takeover attacks.

Another approach is to compare new sign-ups against a database of known breached credentials to identify potential account takeover attempts early. It is also crucial to detect and notify users of suspicious activities, such as changes to their email address or phone number, enabling them to verify and dispute such activity. Additionally, incorporating device recognition and monitoring tools that flag unusual login attempts from a device outside of the typical patterns can help to identify unauthorized access early on.

Detecting Account Takeovers

Account takeover attacks are costly for e-commerce businesses and consumers alike. They strain customer relationships and ultimately hurt company brand and loyalty over the long term.

As attacks become more sophisticated, detecting fraudulent activity becomes more complex and expensive. The key is continuous monitoring, a system that tracks all activities on a customer’s account and looks for the telltale signs of fraud.

Typical account takeovers begin with stolen credentials. Attackers use malware, scams, brute force attacks, and credential stuffing to try and guess passwords until they gain access to a victim’s account. Once the attacker gains control of a user’s account, they monetize it by making unauthorized transactions and using the stolen data to commit other crimes.

Fraudsters quickly move on to other sites and companies, using a single breach or attack to access multiple accounts. They then either resell the stolen data or utilize it to trick more people into falling for their phishing scheme.

Mobile apps are one of the most popular channels via which ATOs happen. Because they frequently require more sophisticated security measures, such as single-factor authentication and account takeover solution, fraudsters may find them appealing targets. Mobile app behavior analysis is critical to detecting fraud, including when account settings change frequently or similar changes occur across multiple accounts.

Managing Account Takeovers

Account takeover attacks are costly to e-commerce businesses. In addition to negatively impacting customer trust and brand image, these crimes result in credit card chargebacks that can trigger additional costs from the payment gateway company and erode profits.

Moreover, once fraudsters access a user’s account, they can monetize it in many ways. They can use the account to steal money, carry out unauthorized transactions, and sell stolen account data. In addition, a successful attack can serve as the launch pad for follow-on attacks such as ransomware.

To protect against these attacks, it’s crucial to be proactive and implement best practices that prevent account takeover. These include enforcing solid passwords, requiring a minimum number of characters, and mandating frequent changes. It significantly reduces the risk of brute-force and credential-stuffing attempts. Also, it’s essential to monitor new users against a database of breached credentials so that you can alert users and block them before they can sign in.

You should baseline typical account behavior and identify activities that deviate from this pattern to do this. For example, if an account’s activity suddenly increases from one day to the next, this is a telltale sign of fraudulent account usage. You should also monitor API traffic to detect anomalies such as unauthorized requests for tokens or sensitive functionality.

Remediating Account Takeovers

Attackers can exploit account takeover to drain e-commerce accounts of funds, monetize stored points or airline miles, and more. They can use stolen accounts to purchase goods and services, submit fraudulent credit applications, or plant ransomware.

Many online businesses don’t realize their account takeover protection has been compromised until they receive numerous customer complaints about unauthorized or fraudulent transactions. However, there are a few signs of account takeover attacks that can help businesses proactively identify and stop these types of malicious activities.

One of the most common indicators of an account takeover is a sudden and significant increase in login attempts from new or previously unobserved devices. Other signals include a change in password, email address, phone number, or payment beneficiary, the addition of an unexpected country or device model, and a spike in activity that deviates from typical behavior, such as a large withdrawal or a request to change user details.

To protect against account takeover, digital security teams must deploy a solution to these attacks before they succeed. It should involve a combination of proactive detection methods, such as rate limits on login attempts based on username, device, and IP, and a solution that automatically compares new users’ credentials against breached data before these exposed accounts are exploited by scanners or sold on the dark web. It should also include a security solution that monitors API traffic to detect deviations from normal behaviors.