Understanding and avoiding account takeover attacks (ATOs)

We all have numerous accounts that give us access to the digital world. We need to create a new account for almost everything we want to access, whether it is eCommerce, iGaming or gambling sites, news platforms, social media networks, or even a streaming service. This makes it easier for the companies to track who their customers are and to provide them the relevant services, while it makes it easier for the customers to interact with businesses.

While it can be hard to keep track of all of the accounts and especially their passwords, overall benefits are too hard to ignore. Just imagine how much harder it would be to use a streaming service if you don’t have an account with them. First of all, you would have to pay for every content individually, and second, you wouldn’t be able to receive any recommendations that make it easier to find new content. The same issue would happen with any other service you have an account with.

Unfortunately, most of our accounts are not as safe as we would like. Fraudsters and cybercriminals are constantly trying to find new ways of exploiting businesses and individuals, and doing so by taking somebody’s account is one of the easiest methods. If a company doesn’t have adequate protection in place, fraudsters would just need to get access to users’ account details, such as their username and password, and they would be able to do anything with their account. 

Account takeover fraud is a menacing cybercrime that has grown exponentially in recent years. This insidious form of fraud occurs when malicious actors gain unauthorized access to someone else’s account, often exploiting stolen credentials or leveraging advanced hacking techniques. The consequences of account takeover fraud can be financially devastating for individuals and businesses alike. It not only jeopardizes sensitive personal information but also poses significant threats to online security and trust. Protecting oneself from this pervasive threat requires a vigilant approach, including strong, unique passwords, two-factor authentication, and staying informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and best practices.

What is an account takeover attack? 

According to Sky news, one of the biggest account takeover attacks happened in 2020 when a large number of celebrities and high-profile Twitter accounts like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk were targeted. They all sent out a tweet with a generous offer. If their followers send them any amount of Bitcoin, they will send back double the amount. Many people jumped on the opportunity, but luckily, Twitter reacted quickly and shut it down. 

Unfortunately, in most cases, account takeover attacks are not as visible as this one, which means it could be a while before they are detected. 

This type of identity theft happens when an unauthorized person gains access to another person’s online account to commit fraudulent actions. Account takeover attacks can range from using their account to steal money or purchase goods and services to selling this information to a third party on a black market. The worst part about account takeover attacks is that nobody is safe; as long as you have an app or a website that requires users to create an account, you are in danger of becoming a victim. 

Just imagine how much damage fraudsters can do if they manage to commit a successful account takeover attack on the eCommerce site. Fraudsters can quickly access users’ financial data and personal information, allowing them to conduct their malicious actions before the users notice anything. After they notice discrepancies with their account, users will request a chargeback from their card provider and ultimately get their funds back, which is why this can often be considered a victimless crime. Unfortunately, that can’t be further from the truth when viewed from the point of the business as they will actually have to face various consequences. Not only does the company have to face financial strain with losing the revenue of the sale and paying chargeback fees, but it also causes significant reputational damage and loss of customers while putting the strain on the IT team that needs to deal with the issue. Every business owner wants to do their best to set up their business for success, and suffering account takeover attacks can hinder their plans.

What can you do to prevent account takeover attacks?

While account takeover attempts are a part of our reality now, that doesn’t mean we have to accept them. By taking proactive steps, using common sense, and educating your employees and customers about the online dangers they might face, you will significantly minimize the risks of them becoming victims. 

Implement password policy

Good password hygiene is essential in ensuring the safety of online accounts. Many people are still using simple and easy-to-guess passwords or even reusing them. Ensure all your employees and customers use complex and unique passwords that are updated regularly to reduce the risk. 

Use necessary security tools

From ensuring all devices that have access to your network are protected with firewall and antivirus programs to implementing cybersecurity tools such as device fingerprinting that stop fraudsters before they can do any damage, there are numerous steps you can do to ensure the safety of your business. For example, device fingerprinting should become essential for any company that requires users to create an account as it can identify discrepancies in user accounts as soon as they happen and stop them before they can do any damage. 

Educate your employees and customers

Cybersecurity must be everyone’s responsibility, from business owners and employees to customers. By educating them about the online dangers and the proper steps to take if anything happens you will be able to reduce the risks significantly.

Use VPN when accessing public networks

You should always try to avoid using public networks if possible, but if you have to use them, you will need to use VPN to ensure you stay protected. Public networks are not usually protected and can put you in danger. 

Implement Multi-factor authentication

This is essential in preventing account takeover, as it can successfully stop fraudsters from gaining access to users’ accounts. While they might be able to gain access to the user’s sign-in details, it will be close to impossible to get second verification method details such as a one-time pin code sent to the phone or email. 


Unfortunately, we live in a world where we face online dangers in almost every part of our lives. Fraudsters and cybercriminals constantly try to come up with new ways to exploit individuals and businesses, and it is the end time to stand up against them. Follow the steps above and protect your business and your customers from account takeover fraud. 

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