Glossary

Account Takeover

What Is an Account Takeover?

An account takeover refers to a situation where an unauthorized individual gains access to an online account that doesn’t belong to them without the account owner’s consent. The attacker then assumes control of the account.

Account Takeover

An account takeover attack can occur through various methods, including:

Password Guessing/Brute-Force Attacks

Attackers try different combinations of passwords, often using automated tools, to gain unauthorized access. They exploit account takeover vulnerabilities like commonly used passwords, personal information, or leaked credentials from other data breaches.

Phishing

Attackers deceive users into revealing their login credentials by posing as legitimate entities through fraudulent emails, messages, or websites. When users unknowingly provide their login information, attackers can access their accounts.

Credential Stuffing

Attackers use stolen usernames and password combinations from previous data breaches and attempt to use them on multiple online platforms. Since many people reuse passwords across different accounts, this method can be effective in online account takeovers.

Social Engineering

Attackers manipulate individuals into providing their account information by tricking them through phone calls, text messages, or other means. They might impersonate customer support representatives, technical support agents, or trustworthy individuals to gain the victim’s trust and obtain their login details.

Malware and Keyloggers

Malicious software can be installed on a user’s device, such as a computer or smartphone, to record keystrokes and capture login credentials as they are entered. This information is then transmitted to the attacker.

Once an attacker gains access to an account, they can engage in various malicious activities, including stealing personal information, sending spam or phishing messages to the account owner’s contacts, making unauthorized transactions, changing passwords to lock out the legitimate user, or using the account for further attacks.

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How an Account Takeover Unfolds

Reconnaissance: The attacker begins by gathering information about the target. They might conduct online research, explore social media profiles, or search for any leaked credentials from previous data breaches that could be associated with the target.

Target Identification: Once the attacker identifies a potential target, they select the account they want to compromise. Depending on their objectives, this could be an email account, social media profile, or online banking account.

Phishing Attempt: The attacker creates a fraudulent email or message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a well-known company, a social media platform, or a financial institution. The message may contain urgent or enticing content to lure the target into action.

Deception and Login Page Replica: The phishing message directs the target to click on a link that replicates a legitimate login page. The replica page is designed to look identical to the real one, tricking the target into entering their login credentials.

Credential Capture: The attacker captures the information in real-time as the target enters their login credentials on the replica page. They now have the username and password necessary to access the account.

Initial Access: With the stolen credentials, the attacker attempts to log in to the target’s account using the correct login page. If successful, they gain unauthorized access and assume control over the account.

Account Control: Once inside the account, the attacker explores its functionalities and settings. They may change the account’s password to prevent the legitimate user from regaining access and maintain control for an extended period.

Data Gathering: The attacker searches the account for valuable information, such as personal data, financial details, or contacts. They can collect sensitive data for various purposes, including identity theft, financial fraud, or future targeted attacks.

Unauthorized Activities: Depending on the attacker’s objectives, they may engage in various malicious activities. This could include sending spam or phishing messages to the account owner’s contacts, making unauthorized transactions, altering account settings, or accessing linked services and accounts.

Covering Tracks: To avoid detection, the attacker may take steps to cover their tracks with account takeover solutions. They may delete login activity logs, clear traces of their presence, or modify account recovery options to prevent the legitimate user from regaining control quickly.

ATO Protection

  1. Strong passwords
  2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA
  3. Be alert for phishing attempts
  4. Monitor account Activity
  5. Secure network connections
  6. Practice caution when sharing personal information
  7. Stay informed

Remember that account takeovers can happen rapidly, and the impact can be severe for the owner. Account takeover (ATO) protection requires a combination of proactive measures, user awareness, and ongoing vigilance.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

Want to talk to Centraleyes about Account Takeover?

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