In an account takeover (ATO) attack, an attacker gains unauthorized access to the credentials for a user’s online account. This access can then be used for identity theft, fraud, and to enable other cyberattacks, such as using access to a user’s corporate credentials to login and plant ransomware within the corporate network.
Most authentication systems are password-based, and passwords are notoriously insecure. Most people will use the same password for multiple accounts, and this password is typically weak and easily guessable. Even if an organization has policies in place to enforce strong passwords (length, required characters, etc.), employees will often modify passwords in predictable ways.
The exploitation of weak passwords is a common means of account takeover but it is not the only one. Other techniques, such as the use of malicious webpages and social engineering provide the attacker with an account password without the need to guess.
Account takeover attacks are a common cybersecurity threat and come in a variety of different forms. Some of the most common types of account takeovers include:
Account takeover attacks can be difficult to detect at first because the user’s credentials may be compromised in an area in which the organization lacks visibility. For example, the exposure of a reused password due to a breach of a different online account is undetectable to an organization.
However, an organization can monitor for warning signs that an employee’s account has been compromised. Some key indicators include:
Malicious Activities: Cybercriminals may use a compromised account to send phishing emails or attempt to exfiltrate sensitive information from an organization’s systems and networks. An account exhibiting these malicious behaviors may have been compromised by an attacker.
Account takeover attacks can be carried out in a variety of ways. Companies can protect themselves against these attacks by implementing certain protections, including:
Account Monitoring: A compromised user account can raise a number of red flags. Monitoring for these warning signs enables an organization to detect and remediate these compromised accounts.
Account takeover attacks pose a significant risk to enterprise cybersecurity because they provide an attacker with the access and permissions assigned to the legitimate account owner. Once an attacker has access to a user’s account, they can immediately move to consolidate that access and exploit it to cause harm to the organization.
Check Point and Avanan take a prevention-focused approach to managing account takeover attacks, detecting and blocking unauthorized account access before it poses a risk to the organization. Learn more about managing the risk of account takeover attacks by reading this whitepaper. You’re also welcome to sign up for a free demo to learn how your organization can better protect itself against unauthorized access to corporate resources.