Protect Your Accounts: Understanding the Dangers of Account Takeovers

An account takeover (ATO) attack is a type of theft where a hacker gains unauthorized access to an online account with malicious intent. The attacker may seek to profit, disrupt service delivery or generate fraudulent transactions.

What is an Account Takeover?

Account takeover (ATO) is a serious threat that can compromise the security of both personal and corporate accounts. In this article, we will explore the concept of account takeovers, how they occur, and the potential consequences. By understanding the tactics employed by hackers and taking proactive measures, you can safeguard your valuable information and mitigate the risks associated with account takeovers.

Unveiling the Tactics Behind Account Takeovers

  1. Social Engineering Exploits: Hackers commonly exploit social engineering techniques to gain access to user accounts. Phishing is a prevalent tactic, where account owners are deceived into disclosing their login credentials through deceptive emails or fraudulent websites. Another method employed by attackers is baiting, where victims are enticed with the promise of rewards to review their account details.
  2. Personal Account Takeovers: Personal ATOs can have various motives. Hackers may target financial accounts to carry out fraudulent transactions or gain entry into an organization's network. Once inside, cybercriminals seek out vulnerable entry points within the target organization to plan their next move strategically.

Understanding the Mechanics of Account Takeovers

Account takeovers have evolved, and traditional security measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) are no longer sufficient to prevent modern-day attacks. Here's how account takeovers can happen:

  1. Credential Guessing: In the past, hackers would gain access to accounts by guessing or brute-forcing the credentials. However, with improved security protocols, this method has become less effective.
  2. Malicious Downloads and Links: Nowadays, hijackers employ sophisticated tactics to trick account owners into downloading malicious software or clicking on sinister links. These actions provide the hijackers with unauthorized access to the account without requiring the user's credentials. Such modern account takeovers are difficult to detect and prevent since the hacker gains access to the entire network, not just the user's login information.

Corporate Account Takeovers: A Looming Threat

Corporate Account Takeover (CATO) poses a significant risk to businesses. In this type of ATO, the attacker targets a corporate account to carry out fraudulent financial transactions, manipulate payroll, or extract sensitive data. Cybercriminals often obtain corporate account credentials by employing tactics such as:

  1. Phishing Attacks: Employees are targeted with deceptive emails, designed to trick them into revealing their account login details.
  2. Phone Scams: Attackers may resort to phone-based scams to extract sensitive information from employees, thereby gaining unauthorized access to corporate accounts.
  3. Malware: Malicious software can be used to infiltrate the corporate network, allowing cybercriminals to compromise accounts and carry out fraudulent activities.

What are some account takeover prevention best practices?

Private users can prevent ATO by implementing the following precautions:

  • Use multi-factor authentication when possible
  • Monitor user behavior on accounts within the network that have already been logged into (not just monitoring unusual login attempts)
  • Educate users to identify suspicious emails, links, or downloads
  • Create unique, strong passwords for every account
  • Use a password manager to keep track of login credentials
  • Install an antivirus software on all devices
  • Keep devices up-to-date with the latest versions of applications, patches and updates

How can you secure your business data against corporate account takeovers?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) was once the most common way to secure data and prevent account takeovers. However, MFA is no longer sufficient to prevent CATO and must be supplemented with cybersecurity software to hunt and respond to account takeover threats.

Account Takeover Prevention with Vectra

Currently, account takeovers have become the largest security threat vector in the cloud. In fact, 30% of organizations suffer account takeovers every month, even with multi-factor authentication in place. Vectra’s AI powered threat detection platform finds and stops cyber threats inside the cloud to protect your network from sinister attackers.

Learn more about the Vectra platform

Understand more about the Vectra platform and its approach to threat detection and response.

Request a demo
Vectra Platform