Account takeover (ATO) is when someone gains your login credentials over another person’s online information. The takeover happens regularly and on any website or the login function. The main reason for ATO is to make a profit using the victim’s account. The ATO commonly happens through bots or by a human typing and accessing the account.

When the ATO succeeds, you will get multiple fraudulent and e-commerce transactions. You are also likely to get unapproved shopping orders that are carried out from the breached account. It is also possible for the one who has hacked the account to change the mailing address and create excessive bills on the victim before the victim notices.

How Does The Account Take Over Happen?

The ATO can start days, weeks, or months before the victim notices. It can be difficult to notice if you do not check your account regularly for any unusual activity or do not have a tip-off to notify you in case of any unusual spending on your account.

Once the fraudster has the information, they might attempt to attack the login interface using an automated fashion. They will use the data they stole by hacking the previous database and then testing them on various web services. The fraudsters will use a script and run it through the login interface. This enables them to try multiple username and password combination and find the working pairs. Thus, this will allow them to access your personal information and data.

When they find a combination that works, they will go ahead and take over the account instantly. When they are done using the credentials, they will sell the credentials for a high price on the dark web since the verified credentials are in high demand. The whole process will take place behind the scene, and businesses will not notice it. Thus, this makes it a challenge for one to put a stop to the process. The attack will only be detected when the user notices something that has happened in their account.

Methods Used For ATO

The fraudsters who use the ATO method exploit vulnerabilities that might be found in the account. They will then breach the account to get the information of the victim and their finances. When it comes to ATO, various methods can be used as long as they guarantee the results. Some popular techniques used to attack are known as credential stuffing and credential cracking.

Credential Cracking

The ATO operator’s goal regarding credential cracking is discovering and using the victim’s legitimate credentials. There are different versions of credential cracking that can be used by the fraudster, like the dictionary methods, guessing, and the use of brute force. In most cases, the thieves who attempt to hack into the victim’s account will use bots.

Credential Stuffing

The use of credential staffing with the aim of ATO involves three parts; the breach, credential stuffing, and the final transaction.

  • The Breach

ATO hackers will take advantage of the vulnerabilities found in popular websites of high-traffic forums. They will access the user database on these websites. This type of method can be used to impact many users if they become widespread. Thus, it will affect many people, especially when it comes to the use of social media breaches. When the method is effective, the hacker will get important information like the usernames, passwords, gender, answers to security questions.

  • Credential stuffing

After the breach, the fraudsters have a username and password, and they can use it on various websites. They will use the username and the passwords to have an easy time accessing the account. If it works, it will lead to the perpetrators making a lot of cash quickly. It is also easy to carry out as they can use bots to get into several accounts at once.

  • Financial transaction

In most situations, the ATO is a part of a more extensive and long-term plan that the hackers use to sell stolen data and other forms of criminal activities. Once the credentials are used, they can be checked by underground criminal networks in a process that can last several years. When the sale of the client’s information takes place, it can cost a company a lot of cash. The recovery procedure, the legal issue, and brand damage control do not come cheap.

Who Is The Target Of The ATO?

Anyone can be a target of ATO as long as the company has an account and is exposed. The ATO is not a process that discriminates against the company size or location. In the past, the banks and the credit card providers were targets, but with the online one-click payment, the companies operating online are victims.

Most small companies assume that since they are small, they cannot be a target. However, that is not the case, as anyone can be a target. As long as your company has logins, you can be sure that fraudsters will make use of it. You should note that the fraudsters will log in to the account and then test the purchase credentials so that they can be able to access the accounts directly. Since small companies are less vigilant when monitoring their account activities, this makes them an attractive target compared to the biggest corporations.

How Do I Stop It?

In case you are wondering how you can stop the ATO, you need to look at the pre-ATO signs before they occur. One thing you ought to do is to monitor the login details, passwords and reset replacement. You also need to look for any unusual signs or activities that might have taken place. Another warning sign is having several accounts being created from a single IP address of the location.

It is best to use credential stuffing prevention solution like DataDome that can monitor your account’s activities 24/7. If you do this, you will be able to stop the ATO before it gets into the environment. In case you notice any activity that is out of the ordinary you can have the matter reported or hire experts who will help put up measures that will prevent the take over from taking place.


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