Account Takeover Fraud

Understanding the Threat and Protecting Your Business

Emails are a critical aspect of our personal and business activities in the digital age. Unfortunately, this leaves us vulnerable to account takeover fraud. This malicious activity, perpetrated by cybercriminals, poses a significant risk to individuals and companies.

What is Account Takeover Fraud?

Account takeover fraud is when cybercriminals access someone's email or social media accounts without permission and then use them for illegal activities like siphoning off money or gaining access to confidential data.

And it’s not just personal email and social media accounts that get hacked but also business-related platforms like e-commerce websites and banking portals. Cybercriminals take advantage of accounts they get hold of because of various skilful techniques, leading to financial loss, reputational damage, and other adverse outcomes.

How Do Criminals Get Your Account Information?

Cybercriminals employ various techniques to obtain account information, and it's essential to understand these methods to enhance your defenses.

  1. Phishing Attacks: Criminals send deceptive emails or messages impersonating legitimate entities, enticing recipients to provide their account credentials on fraudulent websites.
  2. Data Breaches: Hackers target organizations to gain access to user databases. They exploit vulnerabilities in security systems to obtain account credentials. This is done to later use for account takeover.
  3. Credential Stuffing: They use stolen usernames and password combinations from other data breaches. This information is then tested across multiple platforms. People who reuse credentials are at risk of being exploited.
  4. Social Engineering: Fraudsters trick individuals into revealing their account credentials through psychological manipulation and deception. Social Engineering Attacks can occur through phone calls, emails, or in-person interactions.

What Do Fraudsters Do With Stolen Accounts?

Once cybercriminals gain control of an account, they can carry out various malicious activities, including Financial Fraud. Criminals may exploit stolen accounts to make unauthorized purchases, initiate fraudulent money transfers, or gain access to sensitive financial information. Similarly, fraudsters can obtain sensitive information such as social security numbers, addresses, and credit card details, facilitating Identity Theft.

Cybercriminals engage in other nefarious activities. They may use stolen accounts to send spam emails or phishing messages to the victim's contacts. This can spread malware, gather additional account credentials, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks. Furthermore, they may sell these accounts to other fraudsters who can exploit them or use the data for other illegal activities.

Methods Used in Account Takeover Fraud

  1. Brute-Force Attacks: Automated tools are used to systematically guess usernames and passwords. Exploitation occurs when weak or commonly used credentials are used.
  2. Credential Phishing: Fraudsters create convincing fake websites and emails. These fake websites and emails prompt users to enter their account credentials. Unknowingly, the users hand over their credentials to fraudsters.
  3. SIM Swapping: A type of fraud that requires social engineering techniques. Telecom providers transfer a victim's phone number to a device that is not in their possession. This device is then controlled by the fraudster. This allows them to intercept verification codes and bypass two-factor authentication.
  4. Keylogging: Malware or spyware installed on a victim's device can record keystrokes, enabling criminals to capture sensitive information, including account credentials.

How to Detect Account Takeover Fraud?

Detecting account takeover fraud early on is crucial to minimize the potential damage. Monitor your accounts regularly for any unfamiliar transactions, changes in personal information, or unauthorized access attempts. Be vigilant and report any suspicious activity immediately.

  1. Receiving password reset notifications for accounts you didn't request could mean someone is trying to access your account without permission. Be aware of this possibility.
  2. Accounts may become inaccessible. This can be noticed when you are unable to log in, or when your login credentials no longer work. This could mean that your account has been compromised.

Additionally, check if your contacts receive spam emails or messages from your account. It's a strong indication of unauthorized access. Keep an eye on any modifications to your account settings, such as changes in contact information, security questions, or linked devices. These alterations could signal an account takeover.

The Warning Signs of Account Takeover Fraud

Sudden, unexplained transactions, withdrawals, or purchases on your accounts can indicate that fraudsters have gained control. Be aware of unfamiliar login locations, devices, IP addresses, or notifications about multiple failed login attempts or account lockouts. These may indicate a malicious takeover attempt.

One more essential thing to check for is whether important emails have disappeared from your account without your knowledge.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Account Takeover?

The threat of account takeover fraud is serious. However, there are ways to protect yourself and your business.

  1. Strong & Unique Passwords: Use complex passwords that comprise (a combination of) upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid reusing passwords across different accounts to mitigate the risk of credential stuffing.
  2. Two-Factor Authentication: Enable 2FA whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security to your account. A unique code will be sent to your phone or email.
  3. Regularly Update and Patch Software: Keep your devices and applications up to date with the latest security patches. These updates often address vulnerabilities that are exploitable by fraudsters.
  4. Be Cautious of Phishing Attempts: Exercise caution when clicking links or downloading attachments in emails, especially those from unfamiliar senders. Be wary of requests for personal information or account credentials.
  5. Educate Yourself and Employees: Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques and cybersecurity best practices. Educate yourself and your employees on how to identify and avoid potential threats.

Now, not all companies can manually check their status of security. In this era of technology and automation, we expect AI to reduce repetitive tasks. This will allow you to focus on becoming an expert in your industry. That is why it is recommended to install reputed email security software to detect and prevent cybercriminals from compromising your accounts.

Stay informed about the newest cybersecurity tools. Choose one that provides protection, prevention, and pre-emption of potential threats. Tools with real-time alerts and high-end fraud detection are best suited for maintaining the e-security of your business.